Posts Tagged ‘War and Peace’

Why the U.S. lost the war on terror

September 4, 2014

The war on terror is over …  Terror won. [1]

Following the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States began what was called the “war on terror.”  This war [2] has been lost.  Anti-American terrorists are many times stronger now than they were back then, and the U.S. government lacks a feasible strategy for fighting them.

It didn’t have to be this way.  Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the whole world, including most of the Islamic world, was outraged at the killing of 3,000 innocent civilians, and rallied to the side of the USA.  There were pro-American demonstrations even in Tehran!

This would have been a great opportunity to shut down Al Qaeda for good.  Al Qaeda was a criminal conspiracy and a would-be mass movement.  The way to fight a mass movement is to cut it off from its popular support.  The way to fight a criminal conspiracy is to cut if off from its sources of money.  Both of these, in my opinion, were feasible at the time.

0618-ISIS-Iraq-gulf_full_600But this was not the path that was taken.

Instead of targeting Al Qaeda, the U.S. government decided to target hostile governments—perhaps on the theory that the Pentagon does not know how to fight mass movements, but does know how to invade small foreign countries.

Instead of targeting countries in which Al Qaeda had its roots, such as Saudi Arabia, the U.S. invaded Iraq, whose leader, Saddam Hussein, was an enemy of Al Qaeda, while continuing its cold war with Iran, also an enemy of Al Qaeda.  Later the U.S. helped overthrow the government of Libya and plotted to overthrow the government of Syria, whose leaders, Qaddafi and Assad, were not anti-American, but eager to stay in the good graces of the U.S. government.

U.S. invasions reduced Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria to bloody chaos, which are precisely the conditions in which radical and terrorist mass movements flourish.  Since the U.S. military has yet to figure out how to deal with insurgencies, the U.S. government has relied on assassination teams, flying killer robots and use of local forces as proxies.

Assassination teams are effective in taking out leaders.  I can’t count the number of times the death of Al Qaeda’s “second in command” has been announced.   Flying killer robots are less so.  But mass movements throw up new leaders.  Osama bin Laden is dead, and his original organization probably is need, but new Al Qaedas have sprung up in Yemen and Iraq, and the so-called Islamic State is even more radical than Al Qaeda.

Use of proxies has backfired time and time again.  The weapons the U.S. government gives to its supposed friends wind up in the hands of its enemies, either because the supposed friends are not willing to fight or because the supposed friends have their own objectives which are different from what we Americans think.

The USA has had too many enemies in the Middle East, so that the enemies of our enemies are also our enemies.   We were enemies of the Shiite ayatollahs in Iran, but supported their Shiite allies in Iraq against Saddam’s loyalists and radical Sunni Muslim jihadists.   We were enemies of the radical jihadist Muslims, but we supported them against Libya’s Qaddafi and Syria’s Assad.  Now Washington journalists and politicians talk about supporting Iran and its Syrian and Iraqi allies against the jihadist Islamic State.

It is no wonder there is no faction in the Middle East the U.S. government can trust.  Nor is it any wonder there is no faction that trusts the U.S. government.

Having no clear aims of its own, the U.S. government follows the lead of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchs such as Qatar, all of whom naturally follow their own perceived interests,

I am as horrified by the actions of the so-called Islamic State movement as anybody else.  But I can’t think of anything the Obama administration could do that won’t make matters worse.   Bomb the Islamic State forces?  Bombing from the air terrorizes and alienates the mass of the people below.  Arm the Iraqi government?  The U.S. arms they were given previously wound up in the hands of the Islamic State.   Arm the Kurds?  Maybe.

We Americans have lost all moral standing in the Middle East to denounce the crimes of the Islamic State.  That is because hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners have died as the result of U.S. military action, and hundreds of thousands more have been turned into refugees.  [3]   Nobody in that part of the world has any reason to take seriously anything an American says.  [4]   The Islamic State is an evil for the Arabs to deal with (or not), not us.

The best thing for us Americans to do is to admit defeat, wind down our presence in the Middle East and concentrate on rebuilding our own nation.


“Humanitarian bombing” is self-contradictory

August 9, 2014

If you believe it is your duty to protect people from their enemies, the only way to do it is to go stand by them.  Dropping bombs from the air in the hope you will hit some of their enemies will not do the job.  You’ll kill bystanders and create more enemies for yourself and them; you’ll very likely kill some of the people you’re trying to protect.

ISIS-Iraq-AttackSome of us Americans are concerned about the fate of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, currently under attack by the fanatical Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.  But our concern does not reach the level of being willing to send Americans to fight the ISIS in person.  So it is tempting to many people, myself included, to think we can accomplish the same purpose, without risk, by dropping bombs instead.

But giving in to that temptation would be a big mistake.

  • The ISIS is a fanatic Sunni movement in rebellion against the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq and the non-Sunni government of Syria.  The only way to defeat ISIS is to separate it from the Sunni population of those two countries.  Bombing will kill Sunni bystanders, solidify Sunni support for ISIS and bring ISIS closer to Al Qaeda.
  • Intensive bombing of Fallujah and other parts of Iraq during the U.S. occupation never brought about any decisive victory.  Iraq in fact has an air force if it wants to use it.  There is no reason to think that an American bombing campaign will change anything.
  • Persecution of Christians and other minorities has been going on a long time.  More than half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or driven into exile during the American occupation.  Bombing ISIS will not bring them back or end persecution.
  • Once the initial small-scale bombing campaign fails, past history indicates the government will escalate U.S. military intervention rather than admit failure.

I admire the people of Kurdistan.  They are willing to fight for their own freedom and to allow people of other religions (they’re mostly Sunni Muslims) and heritages to live in peace.   I want the U.S. government to make sure they get all they need to defend themselves.  But I don’t want to make their war an American war.


A bombing campaign in Iraq

August 8, 2014

I want to see the murderous Islamic State fanatics in Iraq stopped before they massacre more Christians and members of other minority groups in Iraq.

I guess I sort of more-or-less support President Obama’s decision to bomb the ISIS forces and drop supplies to the valiant people of Kurdistan.   [Update 8/10/14.  I’ve changed my mind.]

Given the experience of the past 10 years, I don’t want American ground troops being sent back to Iraq.

A bombing campaign, against an enemy without an air force or effective anti-aircraft weapons, is appealing as a virtually risk-less way to wage war.

But the experience of history shows that bombing campaigns don’t necessarily achieve their objective, and bombing campaigns conducted in isolation seldom do.   The ISIS forces aren’t going to gather in the open so as to be good targets.   They are going to mingle with the people we are supposedly trying to protect.

Now I understand that President Obama doesn’t think that bombs alone will do the trick.   The idea is to slow down and weaken the ISIS advance and put the Kurdish fighters and Iraqi government army in a better position to resist.

But what happens if ISIS keeps advancing?  Does Obama step up the bombing campaign?  Does he order ground troops back into Iraq?  Or does he at some point decide there is nothing more he can do?

I remember I supported the Vietnam intervention in its early stages because I thought the South Vietnamese could be saved from totalitarian Communism.   I supported the invasion of Iraq in its early stages because I thought the Iraqis could be liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

I wasn’t wrong about Communism, nor about Saddam Hussein, but I was wrong about what it is possible to accomplish by invading another country (and also wrong about my government’s intentions, but that’s another issue).

So now I hesitantly kind-of in-a-way support intervention against ISIS, because I hate to think of my country standing by and doing nothing, and at the same time I think of all the ways in which things could go wrong.

I imagine President Obama has the same thoughts.  I don’t think I will criticize him on this one.


Why ‘strategic’ bombing doesn’t seem to work by Ian Buruma for the Toronto Globe and Mail

The dangerous escalation of conflict with Russia

August 8, 2014

The conflict over Ukraine is escalating dangerously.

An estimated 700,000 people have fled eastern Ukraine for Russia, creating a major humanitarian crisis.  Russia replied to United States and European Union sanctions with sanctions of its own.  Now the question arises as to whether Russia’s covert support for Ukrainian separatists will escalate into open intervention.

The Vineyard of the Saker is a web log to which I ordinarily don’t link because the Saker’s support for Vladimir Putin is so extreme, but he gave an excellent summary of the far-reaching consequences of Russia’s boycott of food imports from the European Union and other pro-sanctions countries.

Food producers in these countries will not only suffer a loss of Russian markets, but depressed food prices as a result of a glut.  Countries that refused to back sanctions will be rewarded.

Russia’s actions will be a severe blow to many European nations, especially in eastern Europe, but will not affect the USA very much—thus driving a wedge between the NATO allies.

Russia’s own farmers will be able to expand their market without having to worry about competition from subsidized American and European imports.  Overall Russia will have an excuse to disconnect from banks and international organizations dominated by the United States and European Union and follow its own path.

Unlike the Saker, I am not a supporter of Putin, but I admit to a grudging respect for his diplomacy.

I was astonished to learn that there are more than 700,000 displaced people from Ukraine in Russia (plus, according to the United Nations, more than 200,000 internally displaced in Ukraine).  That is nearly a million people.

Will this be enough to cause Putin to openly intervene in Ukraine?  I don’t think so.  Putin’s Russia is bogged down in a quagmire war in Chechnya and public opinion polls indicate that Russians don’t want to get bogged down in another quagmire war in Ukraine.

Pepe Escobar wrote that Russia’s minimum demands are (1) no NATO membership for Ukraine, (2) recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, (3) no U.S. troops on Russia’s borders and (4) cultural autonomy for Russian-speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine.  The last is important because it is a political force to help guarantee the first three.

But if the United States and its European allies insist on bringing Ukraine into NATO, if they refuse to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, if the United States stations troops on Russia’s borders, then there is a real possibility of war with Russia.   And Russia is the only nation on the planet with sufficient nuclear weapons to threaten the existence of the United States.


NATO is desperate for war by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

You want to be Uncle Sam’s bitch?  Pay the price! by The Vineyard of the Saker.


War and peace: Links & comments 10/3/13

October 3, 2013


Negotiating with the Enemy by Lou DuBose of the Washington Spectator.

In May, 2003, soon after U.S. forces had defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, the Iranian government sent a peace offer to the United States through the Swiss ambassador.  The Iranians offered to open their nuclear program to international monitoring and inspection and to end support for Hamas and Hezbollah.  The U.S. government rejected the offer and reprimanded the Swiss ambassador for even passing it along.

Col. James Wilkerson, then assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said the rejection came from Vice President Richard Cheney (shown above).  As a result, the Iranian government began helping Iraqi insurgents.   Now Iraq has a pro-Iranian government.  Arguably Iran was the real winner of the Iraq war.

Going to War with Obama to Go to War with Iran by M.J. Rosenberg of the Washington Spectator.

A bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate, aligned with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, opposes any agreement with Iran unless the Iranian government completely gives up its nuclear energy program and sends all nuclear fuel outside the country.  Some Senators are working on a resolution to allow use of military force against Iran unless its government agrees with these conditions.

The government of Israel itself, which unlike Iran does possess nuclear weapons, is said to be contemplating an attack on Iran.  Besides being a crime against humanity, an attack on Iran would be suicidal for Israel.  It would mean that the only safety for the people of Iran would lie in the destruction of Israel.  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s stated fears of Iran would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don’t want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.  The fewer countries in the world with nuclear weapons, the better.  But I wouldn’t blame the government of any country that was threatened with nuclear attack for wanting its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

In Syria, We Don’t Want Rebels to Lose, But We Don’t Want Them to Win Either by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels by Greg Miller of the Washington Post.

A long stalemate civil war in Syria makes Israel marginally more secure, because Bashar al-Assad can’t help Palestinian fighters so long as he is fighting for his own survival.  On the other hand, neither Israel nor the United States wants a takeover of Syria by radical jihadist rebels.   So expect a continuation of the war, which already has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and turned millions of people into refugees.

The passing scene: Links & comments 10/1/13

October 1, 2013

A World in Which No One Is Listening to the World’s Sole Superpower by Dilip HIro for The Nation.

Back during the Vietnam Conflict, a friend of mine remarked that the United States government had the power to kill all the North Vietnamese and the power to kill all the South Vietnamese, but it did not have the power make Vietnamese obey it.  Mao Zedong was wrong.  Not all political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

The U.S. government still spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world put together, but it is less and less able to impose its will on the rest of the world.  As Dilip Hiro wrote, even nominal allies of the United States, even governments that were installed by the U.S. military, refuse to follow President Obama’s lead.

The willingness of a President to engage in military action does not give him credibility.  Instead successive military interventions have drained U.S. strength, and the rest of the world perceives this.  We Americans would have done better to hold our military strength in reserve until we really need it to defend the nation.

I don’t think this is due to weakness of will, and I don’t think things would be better if John McCain or Mitt Romney were in the White House.  I think it is due to long-standing lack of understanding by American leaders that power is not a substitute for understanding.

How a Shopping Mall Becomes a Killing Zone by Philip Jenkins for the American Conservative.

Philip Jenkins in this article described the ingenuity of Somali Al Shabaab terrorists and how they were able to hold out so long and kill so many people in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.  Instead of attacking the mall, rented a store, built up an arsenal, scouted out the mall and only then began their slaughter.

Terrorism, whatever its roots may be, is a real threat.  It is just not the kind of threat that can be met by invading countries or firing killer drones at suspicious characters in remote villages.  It is a threat to be met by good police and intelligence work.

Science confirms: Politics wrecks your ability to do math by Chris Mooney for Grist.

A psychological experiment showed that not only does political bias cloud people’s understanding of statistics, and that a better understanding of statistics leads not to greater objectivity, but to a greater ability to defend their biases.  This is true of both liberals and conservatives.

Ground Gives Way, and a Louisiana Town Struggles to Regain Its Footing by Michael Wines in the New York Times.

A growing sinkhole, hundreds of feet deep and as large as 20 football fields, swallows up trees and houses in southern Louisiana.  It is like the opening scene of a horror movie.

Mideast struggles: Links & comments 9/29/13

September 29, 2013

Is Iran Out of the US War Queue? Twilight of the Hawks by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.   Hat tip to Jack Clontz

General Wesley Clark said that, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he was told by a friend in the Pentagon that the Department of Defense had a list of seven countries it intended to invade—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.  Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the other architects of that plan are no longer in government, but it does seem as if that, at any given time, the United States government is debating war with one or another of the countries on that list.

Juan Cole is optimistic about peace negotiations with Iran.   I hope he’s right.   There is no basic conflict of interest between our two countries.  We Americans of course would like to have cheap oil, but no Iranian government is going to give its oil away.  Even the Shah of Iran, who was installed by the CIA, eventually nationalized Iranian oil and supported OPEC.

How Bashar al-Assad Destroyed My Country by Omar Ghabra for The Nation.

A Syrian-American recalls how the Assad government in 2011 murdered and tortured non-violent protesters who demanded a democratic government and respect for human rights.   His article illustrates President John F. Kennedy’s saying, that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

Where did Syria get its Chemical Weapons in the First Place? by Jannis Bruhl of ProPublica for Informed Comment.  Another hat tip to Jack Clontz

Evidently Russia supplied the poison gas weapons, but essential chemical supplies also came from Germany and other European countries.

Putin to the Rescue by David Bromwich for the London Review of Books.

Barack Obama thoughtlessly says things that come back to haunt him.   That’s one reason the wily Vladimir Putin outsmarted him in the Syrian crisis.   You would think that someone who is as determined as President Obama to prevent leaks of embarrassing information would be more self-disciplined about his own words.

Seymour Hersh on death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It is one big lie; not one word of it is true’ by Lisa O’Carroll for The Guardian.  Hat tip to Daniel Brandt.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is my age (76) and still going strong.  People like him make me feel as if I’ve wasted my life.

Uzbekistan’s Karimova Tillyaeva reveals rift in ruling family by BBC News.   Hat tip to Oidin.

The jet-setting daughters of Uzbekistan’s dictator Islam Karimov, who both play roles in the government, haven’t spoken to each other for 12 years.   As celebrity gossip, this is amusing, but I don’t think that the poverty-stricken, repressed people of Uzbekistan find it so amusing.

America’s biggest threat is its own N-weapons

September 26, 2013

nuclearaccident1Americans are in greater danger from accidents in our own country’s nuclear arsenal than we are from the spread of nuclear weapons to countries such as Pakistan, North Korea or Iran.

An investigative reporter named Eric Schlosser tells in a new book, Command and Control, of narrow escapes from accidental nuclear explosions, and from launching of nuclear bombs based on false alarms.  The thing about narrow escapes is that you can’t count on them happening.  After

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAIn the period from 1950 to 1968 alone, he discovered 700 “significant” nuclear accidents.  The government was uncooperative, but he was helped by whistleblowers who were worried about lax handling of dangerous weapons.

An atomic bomb without its warhead was accidentally dropped on Mars Bluff, S.C., in 1958.  A fully armed atomic bomb was dropped near Goldsboro, N.C., in 1961; there were four fail-safe switches designed to prevent the bomb from going off accidentally, and three of the four failed.

Suppose you were President of the United States and you were told that an atomic bomb had been dropped on North Carolina.  Would you stop and do nothing until you figured out what had happened, or would you assume that the nation was under attack and strike back.

The Cold War is over, but both the United States and the Russian Federation still have their nuclear missiles ready to launch, and an nuclear false alarm is just as possible now as it was then.

I don’t know which is worse—to think, as Schlosser does, that the U.S. Air Force is negligent in its handling of nuclear weapons, or to think that the current system is working as well as is humanly possible.


Eligibility rule for humanitarian war advocates

September 17, 2013

Blogger Duncan Black, aka Atrios, has a new unofficial rule.

Any pundit who advocates war for supposed humanitarian reasons must be able to point to 5 recent occasions when they advocated for achieving humanitarian goals using non-killing methods.

Otherwise, STFU.

via Eschaton.

A good decision by President Obama

September 16, 2013

President Barack Obama made a good decision to back off from attacking Syria, and to back off from nominating Lawrence Summers to head the Federal Reserve Board.

I don’t think it ever shows weakness of character to change your mind when the facts warrant.  The truly weak person doubles down on bad decisions rather than admit to a mistake.

obamaredline500An attack on Syria would have been a bad idea because it wouldn’t have solved the problem of poison gas warfare, and might have made it worse.  A full-scale invasion of Syria would have brought the United States into dangerous confrontation with Russia.  Neither danger has gone away, but both are less than they were last week.

The crisis may turn out to have produced a good result.  If Syria actually does get rid of its poison gas weapons, this is something that wouldn’t have happened except for President Putin’s need to respond to President Obama’s threats.

Another good decision was Lawrence Summers’ withdrawal of his name from consideration as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.  Nomination of Summers to head the Federal Reserve would have been a bad idea because his ideas and policies were a main cause of the recent financial crash.

President George W. Bush in the last years of his second term made course corrections.  He replaced Donald Rumsfeld at Secretary of Defense and established a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.   Maybe President Obama will go through the same evolution.  One can hope.

There is nothing humiliating in accepting objective reality—even if the only objective reality that you recognize is public opinion polls.

What should be U.S. goals in the Middle East?

September 13, 2013

WikipediaMiddleEastmapThe conflicts in the Middle East are too complex for me to easily grasp.  I don’t kid myself that I understand them simply from having read a few books and magazine articles.

There is a struggle between poor people and working people versus a wealthy upper class and foreign corporations.   There is a struggle among democrats, theocrats and nationalists.   There is a religious struggle between Sunnis, Shiites and other Muslim factions and among Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religion.  There is a struggle by corporations and governments inside and outside the region for control of oil and gas fields and of pipeline routes.  There is a struggle between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.  There is a struggle for power and influence among Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and other nations within the region, and among the USA, the UK, France, Russia and other powers outside the region.  Probably there are other important factors that I neglected to mention.   I can’t disentangle them all.

But each and every one of us Americans has the ability and responsibility to decide is what my country’s goals should be in regard to the region, and how far we should go to implement this goals.

I think that the best way for Americans to assure a supply of oil and natural gas is to have good relations with the nations that produce oil and gas and to build up our own economy so that we can afford to pay a fair price.   Taking sides with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states against their rivals in the region is not a dependable strategy for getting access to their oil.

Syria_regionI think that the best way for Americans to encourage other nations to give up poison gas, bio-weapons and nuclear weapons is to assure them that they do not need these weapons to deter attack.  The more the U.S. government threatens and bombs foreign countries, the more they will want weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent.

Back in the days when Israel’s existence was threatened by the Arab League, I thought the United States government should protect that country from attack.  If such a situation recurred, I suppose I would feel the same way.  But for now, the U.S. guarantee encourages the current Israel leadership to think they can attack foreign countries with impunity.   This is dangerous in the long run, even for Israel itself.

I think the best way to fight terrorists is to treat them as criminals and not as warriors.   U.S. actions create terrorists, when we arm and pay them to attack governments we’ve designated as enemies, or when we kill indiscriminately and raise up enemies bent on taking revenge.

I think the best way to promote freedom and democracy is to show friendship to governments that are free and democratic.  When a dictator is overthrown, the best way to help the new government is to provide practical aid, including helping to liquidate the government debts left over from the previous regime.  If the U.S. government was really interested in promoting freedom and democracy in Egypt, it would not have given the former regime $1 billion a year to buy U.S. weapons to use against their own people.

I think the best way to deal with governments that commit atrocities is to bring charges before international courts against the individuals responsible, based on evidence and proof.

I think the mission of the U.S. armed forces should be to defend the U.S. homeland, to defend U.S. allies to which our country is bound by treaties and to protect the lives of individual American citizens abroad.

I had a quiz with the original version of this post, but I deleted it because of apparent lack of interest and because the results would not have been meaningful.  However, I would be highly interested in comments about the goals of U.S. policy in the Middle East and about when the U.S. government would be justified in using military force.

What Putin has to say to Americans about Syria

September 12, 2013

If I were a Russian, I don’t think I would be a supporter of President Vladimir Putin.  Russia is a country where opponents of the regime die mysteriously, a tightly-knit group of self-described oligarchs control finance and industry and holdovers from the old Soviet Union are entrenched in government.  But I think Putin made a lot of sense his New York Times article about Syria yesterday.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.  A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa.  It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country.  There are few champions of democracy in Syria.  But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.  The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.  This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?  After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali.  This threatens us all.

He also stated:

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest?  I doubt it.  Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

He ended the article with these words:

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust.  I appreciate this.  I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.”

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.  There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.  Their policies differ, too.  We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.


President Putin, it is true, has his own reasons for not wanting the Syrian government to be overthrown.  Syria has been a Russian client state since the days of the old Soviet Union.  It provides the Russian Federation with its only naval base on the Mediterranean.   It is a potential outlet for a natural gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea region of Russia and Central Asia.

And while the Russian government’s proposal for a turnover of Syrian chemical weapons to an international authority sounds good, it would be impossible to implement while the country is in the middle of a civil war.  After all, the United States promised in 1990 to get rid of our chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012, and has not managed to do so.

But the governments of the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reasons for supporting the rebels which have more to do with pipeline routes, geopolitical advantage and Sunni-Shiite struggles than with humanitarism.  There is nothing at stake in Syria’s civil war that justifies a U.S. attack on Syria.


The Syrian enigma: Links & comments 9/10/13

September 10, 2013

When I first heard the charges that the Syrian government had used nerve gas against rebel forces, I disbelieved them.  It didn’t make any sense to me that Bashar al-Assad would do something that was not only wicked but foolish.  Then I gradually became convinced there is something to the charges.  Who else but the Syrian government would have the capability to launch such attacks?

Now I don’t know what to believe.

Letter Detailing Syria’s Case to Congress Has More Verifiable Claims Than U.S. Case to Date by Brad Friedman for the BRAD BLOG (which I have added to my Blogs I Like page)

Mohammed Jihad al-Lahman, Speaker of the Syrian People’s Assembly, wrote a letter to members of the U.S. Congress appealing to them to refrain from attacking his country.

Among other things he offered evidence that the gas attacks were made by the Syrian rebel forces.  He said that Turkish and Iraqi authorities captured rebel forces with nerve gas weapons, that Syria appealed to the United Nations back in March to investigate nerve gas attacks by rebels and that the Syrian government turned over evidence of rebel use of nerve gas to the Russian and Chinese embassies.

All these allegations can easily be checked, and ought to be checked before any congressional vote.

Syria crisis: Obama welcomes Russia’s chemical weapons proposal by Dan Roberts and Julian Borger of The Guardian.

The Russian government called on Syria’s leaders to place their chemical weapons under international control and eventually to destroy them.  Since Syria depends on Russian backing, there is a good chance this will be accepted.

It provides a good opportunity for Barack Obama and John Kerry to climb back off the limb they’ve gotten out on.  I wonder how much the crisis is due to President Obama having said the use of chemical weapons is a “red line”, believing when he said it that the line never would be crossed.

However, if Bashar al-Assad agrees to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, some good will have come from President Obama’s threats.   Assuming the agreement is carried out, of course.

Russia balks at French plan for U.N. Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical arms by the Washington Post [added later]

It turns out that the Russian government would “welcome” the Syrian government handing over its chemical arms to an international authority, but aren’t offering to take responsibility for implementing this and wouldn’t support a threat of military action if they didn’t comply.  So less has changed than I thought.

How U.S. Grand Strategy in Syria Led to the Idea of Missile Strikes by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Juan Cole, a Middle East historian, wrote that there are two factions among the Syrian rebels—radical Sunni Muslims linked to Al Qaeda in the north of Syria, backed by Turkey and Qatar, and another less radical faction in the south of Syria backed by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United States.

According to Cole, the purpose of the planned U.S. attack is to weaken the Syrian forces on the southern front and help the rebel faction favored by the United States.

Can You Pass the Qatar Quiz? by Jeffrey Rudolph for Informed Comment.

How did the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar come to play such a big part in Middle East power politics?  This guest post on Informed Comment helps to explain.


Arab countries said to offer to pay for invasion

September 6, 2013


The following is by a blogger for the Washington Post.   I think it deserves more attention than it got.

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.”

via Washington Post.

Kerry didn’t say which Arab countries he had in mind, but Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil mini-states are the only ones who would have the money to finance such an operation.  They reportedly have been financing the Syrian rebels, so this might be cost-effective for them to do.

We Americans should ask ourselves how these Arab countries’ interests are served by overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and whether those interests are the same as our interests.   If our interest is in promoting freedom and democracy, my answer is, probably not.

Syria is in the middle of a struggle involving Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries for power and influence in the region.  I don’t see how the people of the United States, or the people of Syria, or freedom and democracy, are served by the United States taking sides in this struggle.


War resolution is a trap for Congress

September 6, 2013


Why does President Obama want authorization from Congress to attack Syria, when he claims he doesn’t need it and some administration officials say he may go ahead even without authorization?

Surely one reason is that a favorable vote will give him political cover.  Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for the Bush administration’s requests for authorization to use military force against Iraq and Al Qaeda.  That made it possible for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to say that they had equal responsibility.

That same will be said by Barack Obama and Joe Biden if Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul vote for the authorization to use force against Syria, and later criticize administration policy.  It’s a good political ploy.  Let’s hope that a majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives have as good an understanding of the situation as a majority of the American people.


The slippery steps from words to war

September 5, 2013

Eric Martin, a contributor to the Democracy Arsenal web log, wrote a post about two years ago outlining six slippery steps that take the United States into military quagmires.

Step 1:  How can the President not at least condemn [Regime X] publicly for its abhorrent actions?  A public condemnation is the very least the President can do.  It wouldn’t cost much, but it would be an important show of our resolve and support for freedom!

Step 2 (with Regime X still in place):  So what, the President condemned the regime publicly with some harsh words and called it “illegitimate.”  Words are cheap and inconsequential.  We need sanctions and coordinated efforts to isolate the regime.  That will do the trick!

a308_marines_kandahar_2050081722-12811Step 3 (with Regime X still in place):  Sanctions?  Regime isolation?  Is that all the President is going to do in the face of Regime X’s perfidy?  Those timid jabs will never work, and the President’s dithering will make us look weak and lacking in resolve.  Our enemies will be emboldened.  The President must use our military to deal a swift blow.  No one is advocating a prolonged occupation, just a decapitation maneuver, and then a rapid hand off to the indigenous forces for democratic change.

Step 4 (with Regime X toppled by our military):  Now that we’ve committed our military, and brought about regime change, we have a moral obligation to see the mission through to the end.  Besides, if we withdraw, chaos will erupt and our enemies will fill the vacuum.  We owe it to the locals, we can’t afford to lose face, we can’t show weakness and our credibility depends on staying until a relatively stable, friendly nation emerges from the rubble.

Step 5 (repeat as needed):  We’ve turned the corner, shifted the momentum and victory is within reach.  The next six months should prove decisive.

Step 6:  I was critical of the handling of this military action from the beginning.  I would have conducted the operation differently.  Regardless, no one ever said it would be quick or easy.  But the difficulties encountered don’t discredit the policy!

Click on On Rhetoric and Regime Change to read Martin’s full post.  Hat tip to James Fallows.


Bertrand Russell on war for moral principle

September 5, 2013

In 1914, the British government justified its declaration of war on Germany by Germany’s violation of the neutrality of Belgium and by alleged German atrocities, most of which later turned out to be false propaganda.  Bertrand Russell, who opposed the war, wrote early in 1915 about the idea of going to war to punish nations for their crimes.

Moral judgment, as applied to others than one’s self, are a somewhat subtilised police force: they make use of men’s desire for approbation to bring self-interest into harmony with the interest of one’s neighbors.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

But when a man is already trying to kill you, you will not feel much additional discomfort in the thought that he has a low opinion of your moral character. For this reason, disapproval of our enemies in wartime is useless, so far as any possible effect upon them is concerned.

It has, however, a certain unconscious purpose, which is, to prevent humane feelings toward the enemy, and to nip in the bud any nascent sympathy for his sufferings.  Under the stress of danger, belief and emotions all become subservient to the one end of self-preservation.

Since it is repugnant to civilized men to kill and maim other just like themselves, it becomes necessary to conquer repugnance by denying the likeness and imputing wickedness to those whom we wish to injure.

And so it comes about that the harshest moral judgments of the enemy are formed by the nations which have the strongest impulses of kindliness to overcome.

==Bertrand Russell, “An Appeal to Intellectuals,” 1915

Barack Obama and the imperial Presidency

September 4, 2013

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said that the President has authority to order an attack on Syria on his own authority.  They say he is merely consulting Congress as a favor, and would still be free to act if Congress refused to pass his resolution.


Here are the words of the United States Constitution, which Obama and Kerry swore an oath to uphold.

Article One, Section 8.  The Congress shall have power … …

      To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land or Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasion; … …

Article Two, Section 2.  The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States; … …

The Founders limited the power of the President to wage war because they didn’t want the new nation to be governed like a European monarchy, where the king could go to war for personal reasons unrelated to the welfare of the people.

Time passed, and over the years Presidents expanded their power and stretched their authority.   In response, Congress in 1973 passed the War Powers Resolution.   It began as follows.

droneattackobamaThe constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to

(1) a declaration of war,

(2) specific statutory authorization, or

(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

The resolution went on to state that in cases of dire emergency, the President could initiate military action, provided that (1) he report to Congress the necessity and Constitutional authority for such action, (2) he cease action after 60 days unless given specific congressional authorization and (3) he cease action immediately if Congress so resolves.

When President George W. Bush asked Congress for authority to use military force against Al Qaeda and to force Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions on weapons of mass destruction, I thought these were justified grants of authority for specific purposes.  But the two resolutions by Congress were used by Presidents Bush and Obama as open-ended grants of power to use whatever force they thought necessary against hostile governments and individuals.  President Obama’s proposed Syria resolution is subject to being interpreted in this open-ended way.

The House of Representatives refused to vote authority for the Libyan intervention, but Obama went ahead anyway.  I hope Congress asserts its authority in this case and that the President is prudent enough to heed its words.


Syria, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, has strong allies

September 4, 2013


Attacking Syria will not be like intervening in Bosnia or Kosovo, invading Iraq or overthrowing the government of Libya.  In all these cases, the United States attacked countries that were small, weak and isolated.

This is not the case with Syria, whose government is supported by Iran and Russia.  It is more like North Vietnam, which had allies that supplied it with modern weapons.  Attacking Syria also would be like bombing North Vietnam in the sense that it would risk a direct confrontation with Russia.

It would be embarrassing from President Obama to step back after drawing a “red line” against President Assad using poison gas, and then saying he knows for sure that Assad did use poison gas.  But it will be even more embarrassing if Obama has to back down after ordering missile strikes into Syria, and downright humiliating if he has to order U.S. troops withdrawn after failing to achieve his goal.

What President Obama would have to do in order to make me favor a declaration of war against Syria is to show me an objective that is worth the sacrifice and risk, and to convince me that he has a realistic strategy for achieving that objective.

“Punishing Syria” is not an objective.  “Getting rid of Assad” is not a worthwhile objective unless you have some reason to think that what comes after Assad will be better.  And please don’t say that nothing could be worse than Assad.  That’s what many of us thought about Saddam, and how wrong we were!

President Putin’s statements about Syria have been restrained.  He evidently doesn’t want to back President Obama into a corner.  But I don’t think he will stand idly by while Obama orders an attack on a Russian ally.


A letter from an Army wife

September 3, 2013


This is from a post by James Fallows of The Atlantic about a letter he received from an Army wife.  I’ve already linked to it, but I think it deserves a separate post.  The letter describes the sacrifices that military families have made and how they’ve been treated in return.

1)  We have been constantly at war for more than a decade.  My own husband has been deployed seven times and is currently getting ready for his fifth trip to Afghanistan (three of his previous deployments were to Iraq).  He is not alone (and, frankly, he’s one of the lucky ones who tends to have a year or more in between deployments.)

2)  During the buildup / surge, recruitment needs were such that standards dropped to serious lows. Waivers were granted willy-nilly.  As a result, the service ended up with a lot of shiftless thugs who have now served long enough to be in leadership positions (or at least positions where they can be obstructionist and demoralizing).

3)  The military does everything in its power to keep soldiers deployable, including ignoring injuries and mental health problems.  Soldiers basically get two options: quit (and give up your years toward retirement so that you can go in an endless queue and hope that the VA processes your case and gives you treatment) or soldier on in pain.

4)  The military uses semantics to evade its promises. We are told that troops are being withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. In reality, soldiers are still being deployed and endangered, we just call them “peacekeepers” and “instructors” and “trainers” now.

5)  Service members are being used as a pawn in the budget fiasco. Troops currently being deployed (for the fourth, sixth, ninth, etc. time) are being told that their tours may stretch one indefinitely due to “lack of funds to train replacements”.

6) The Army’s response to budget cutting is to weed out the older/more expensive soldiers before they can retire.  Yes, physical fitness standards are important, but the move toward “tightening up” the standards (basically taking away the lower performance requirements for older soldiers) is a sneaky way to screw someone who has fought for the country for eighteen or nineteen years out of his or her pension (in most cases, you don’t get anything if you are even a day short of 20 years).

7)  Proposed/rumored changes to pensions are extremely worrying.  For soldiers in their late 30s and beyond, it is too late to earn a full civilian pension if the Army fails to follow through on its promises.

8)  Cutting back (or perhaps even eliminating) commissaries, on-post schools and MWR [1] is all on the table (budget-wise), as is lowering the amount of BAH [2] that soldiers get (and don’t forget the proposal to lower the cost of living increase).  Tuition assistance is being abolished or curtailed.  Also, the furloughing of civilian DoD workers, in most cases, just means that the soldiers put in extra hours to make up the difference.  Tricare [3] is being modified to require co-pays.  There is a rumor (I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere) that spouses and children are going to be kicked off Tricare and forced to purchase their own coverage through the health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

9)  The civilian hiring freeze makes it next to impossible for military spouses to obtain jobs when we are moved to new posts (trust me- I’m a professional.  Moving every three years (sometimes to jurisdictions where my license won’t transfer) has been devastating on my career.  I credit divine intervention for landing my current job when we PCSd from Texas.  It used to be that well-qualified spouses would sign up at the employment liaison office and move smoothly from an office on Fort Wherever to Fort Wherever else- but now we can’t), this puts even more financial pressure on military families.

All of that being said- Yes, it is a volunteer Army. My husband knew what he signed up for and his commitment to the service is unwavering.

via The Atlantic.

neverpushThe military ideal is an ethic of honor and mutual loyalty, which goes down as well as up.  What this letter described is no different from how some failed business corporation would treat its employees.  The paragraph about soldiers being separated from the military just before they become eligible for retirement reminds me of stories I heard about Eastman Kodak Co. during its decline.

American soldiers, Marines and other troops are not responsible for the failed U.S. military policies of the past 10 years and more.  The worst abuses of American power have been by mercenaries, the CIA and others not bound by a military code of conduct.  There is an all-important difference between “the military” and “militarists” (and I apologize if I have ever unthinkingly used the first word when I meant the second).

The way to support the troops is to not ask them to sacrifice life and limb needlessly, and to make sure they and their families get what they need.


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.


Killer missiles are not an instrument of justice

August 29, 2013

I read in my morning newspaper that President Barack Obama is certain that President Bashar al-Assad’s government must be punished for using deadly chemical weapons, including sarin gas, to kill hundreds of Syrian civilians.

But if the United States carries out a military strike on Syria, it’s not likely that it will harm President Assad personally.  It is almost certain to result in the deaths of more Syrian civilians.

I’m reminded of President Bill Clinton’s efforts to punish Saddam Hussein by means of an economic blockade and intermittent bombing of Iraq.  But Saddam did not suffer in the slightest from the low-level war against Iraq.  He still had his luxurious life amid his many palaces.  It was the ordinary people of Iraq who suffered.

Justice would require that President Assad be indicted for his crimes and tried before an international court, like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia.  But even if it were feasible to take him into custody, I don’t think the U.S. government would allow this to happen, any more than in the case of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.

In a fair trial, Assad, like Saddam or Osama, would be able to testify about their past relations with the U.S. government, and that would be too embarrassing for the U.S. government to tolerate—in particular, Assad’s role as a torture subcontractor for the CIA.

President Obama and the U.S. Congress could help relieve the Syrian situation in many ways.  They could help feed and shelter refugees made homeless by the Syrian civil war.  They could join with the government of Russia in trying to negotiate a cease-fire between the Syrian factions.  If the United Nations authorizes a peacekeeping force, the U.S. could provide troops and material aid for that force.

In the above video, Fareed Zakaria, columnist for Time and host of a weekly CNN program on foreign affairs, outlined the historical background of Syria and made the case against full-scale U.S. military intervention in Syria.

But firing missiles at Syria is not a “moderate” alternative to all-out war.  Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, back in the days of the Vietnam Conflict, thought that a carefully calibrated bombing North Vietnam was a means of sending a message about U.S. resolve.  It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

Occasional missile strikes on Syria won’t harm Assad.  He may even welcome them, as a means of redirecting the people’s anger away from himself and toward the United States and its allies.  The supposed punishment will fall on ordinary people in Syria, especially if the missile hits a gas storage facility.


Did Syria use illegal poison gas weapons?

August 28, 2013
Map by The Independent

Map by The Independent

[Added 9/17/13]  The United Nations report indicates that the Syrian military used sarin gas on civilians.  Click on UN Report Conclusive: Sarin Gas Was Used On a Large Scale, Linked to Syrian Regime for a summary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

If I were a dictator trying to put down a rebellion, and the world’s most heavily-armed superpower told me that the one thing that would unleash their attack on me is the use of poison gas, I don’t think I would use poison gas.

And if I did use poison gas, I would use it in a decisive way, that would end the rebellion once and for all.  So I have been skeptical about charges that the Syrian government used poison gas against rebel forces.  But a report by Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres provides strong circumstantial evidence that thousands of people have symptoms of being victims of poison gas.  [New Scientist magazine published a similar report.  Added 8/30/13.]

I don’t think the rebel forces could have been the ones to use poison gas.  It would have been virtually impossible to cover up.  So while it still doesn’t make sense to me that the Syrian government would use poison gas, my experience of life tells me that people sometimes do things that don’t make sense.

Juan Cole, on his Informed Comment web log, suggested a reason why the Syrian government might have used gas and thought they could get away with it. Or maybe there is some other explanation.  I don’t know.  Neither do Joe Biden or John Kerry.

If gassing of civilians really is the main issue, the best thing is to wait for the report of the UN inspectors in Syria.


Post-Assad Syria: a haven for al Qaeda?

August 28, 2013


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.


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.


‘Syrian Electronic Army’ hacks U.S. media

August 28, 2013


The United States and its allies have overwhelming military force compared to the government of Syria.  But that doesn’t mean an attack on Syria or an invasion could be carried out without consequences.

For example.

For a good chunk of Tuesday, website administrators at Twitter, The New York Times, and other high-profile media outlets appeared to be locked in a high-stakes battle with self-proclaimed Syrian hackers for control of their Internet domains.

Just as quickly as,, and other domains were returned to their rightful owners, Internet records showed they’d be seized all over again and made to point to a Russian Web host known to cater to purveyors of drive-by malware exploits and other online nasties

via Ars Technica.

Whether or not these hackers really were Syrians, the incident shows that small countries have ways of retaliating that don’t involve armed force or violent terrorism.


Twitter and New York Times clash with hackers for control of their sites by Dan Goodin for Ars Technica.

Pro-Assad ‘Syrian Electronic Army’ boasts attacks on New York Times, Twitter, Huffington Post on Boing Boing.


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