Assorted thoughts about Syria

I was quite surprised when yesterday German TV news (a public station ) flat-out declared that a Western intervention in Syria was now a sure thing, as if there was no doubt left. Only hours earlier I had read about poll results showing a ridiculously low pro-intervention support among the U.S. population!

The TV news may have been up to something, as only hours later the internet exploded with blog posts, forum posts, op-eds etc. all discussing an intervention. There was probably a tipping point reached recently, I'm just not yet sure for what.

James Fallows' reaction sounds quite reasonable:

For 20 years now we have seen this pattern:
1. Something terrible happens somewhere -- and what is happening in Syria is not just terrible but atrocious in the literal meaning of that term.
2. Americans naturally feel we must "do something."
3. The easiest something to do involves bombers, drones, and cruise missiles, all of which are promised to be precise and to keep our forces and people at a safe remove from the battle zone.
4. In the absence of a draft, with no threat that taxes will go up to cover war costs, and with the reality that modern presidents are hamstrung in domestic policy but have enormous latitude in national security, the normal democratic checks on waging war don't work.
5. We "do something," with bombs and drones, and then deal with blowback and consequences "no one could have foreseen."
There's a reason why I wrote a blog post titled "We need to do something ..." six years ago already. This desire to do something when a situation is uncomfortable appears to be deeply rooted and not easily controlled. Sadly, warmongers exploit this and other human imperfections for their rackets.

The usual suspects came up with the usual opinions, and I'm no exception. The Syrian civil war is one of those "devil or deep sea" things, which is probably why it lasts so long and almost nobody intervened in force yet.

I'm not sure there is going to be an actual military intervention.* To set up training courses with special forces training selected rebel groups just behind the Turkish border might be a reasonable move instead (if one still thinks the U.S. military is any good at training Arabs).
Obama et al would need to be extremely insulated to not notice how the avalanche of reactions is overwhelmingly contra intervention.

By the way; it's interesting how more than just a few voices have been raised with a rather cynical tone, claiming that an intervention is necessary to teach respect. After all, Obama drew a stupid red line and evil Assad didn't obey / respect it. The supposedly planned intervention is supposedly not aimed at pushing for regime change, but only at punishing Assad's regime.
This view may be cynical, but also true - and revealing. These people imply that the red line thing was a threat, and threats are of course violations of international law.
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
These must be dire times, as I quoted this passage many times already. Guess its source. And again; bad, bad ally!
The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
That quote was used too often already as well. Maybe I begin to use the propaganda trick of repeating till it sticks? The warmongers surely use it a lot!

Syria is in a civil war which is going to end with some parts of the country oppressing other parts. I think it would be unethical to intervene and decide who gets to oppress whom. Some pro-intervention folks react with not very intellectual responses to such opinions; especially blaming suffering, beheadings et cetera on the naysayers. Guess what? That's going to happen anyway.
Some people believe 'we' in the West should side with the Christians in Syria. Well, that would mean to side with Assad, who supported Hezbollah, which skirmishes with Israel, which is supposedly the West's greatest friend in the region. The usual Middle Eastern mess.


*:  Still remember how often we were told air strikes against Iranian nuclear industry were imminent during the last years? This may be about the same kind of sabre rattling porn.


  1. I dont think, its sabre rattling per se, but rather that the hawks are more isolated than before. See Cameron and his goons, clear hawks, but they are being reigned in for the moment, too many people nudging and reminding how things went the last time around.

    Also as fas as Obama is concerned, I rather disagree with the view of *threatening Syria and they refuse to fall in line*. His red line may enter history as one of the minor classic cases of severe miscalculation caused by feeling pushed into a corner.

    See, I dont think, this whole red line-talk back then was directed at Assad at all. It was aimed at the hawks back home (both the right-wingers and the liberal interventionists, some of which are sitting in his very cabinet, see Rice) and to a more limited degree at the parts of the "international community", that for one reason or another seek out American reassurance.

    I think, his logic back then basically went like 'Alright, have a statement to make. Lets pick as our focus something, that - lets be serious - has no chance in hell of happening as such' (wink wink nudge nudge @Assad).
    Its just a notion of course, but I think, he never figured, what the ramifications of his statement really could mean, how it might induce some interest groups to actually exploit the CW-red line, such as earlier this year with that phony CW attack (which the investigators under Del Ponte back then more or less directly blamed the rebels for) and potentially even in the current case. Not suggesting, that this really is the case, IMO government forces could well be behind the current incident, but it just demonstrates, how messy it is to get involved in someone else's civil war, especially when there is clearly no grasp in the West about who there wants what, is doing what and why. Very few people in charge at the moment seem to have both feet firmly on the ground in regard to what the national self-interest might be. Its also interesting, how foreign policy seems to increasingly detach itself from popular interest and sentiments, with very little communication between politicians and their people (even the usual meaningless phrases are getting scarce). Not suggesting, that this is wholly the politicians fault (though their share is significant).

  2. We just watch one heck of events unfold from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran to Afghanistan. And South Sudan will secure the complete oilfield output some time in the future.
    It kind of looks like a "formation" of the core oil regions with Saudi money and US weapons. Old structures are swept away and I wonder how the Chinese influence is affected by these events.
    My definition of "formation" is to change a society in order to reflect a new preset pattern. It's not the same as conquest that strives to secure land and resources. The early Muslim conquest or the Eastern crusades are examples of older mixes of conquest and formation. Having formation without much conquest could be described as the American way ever since they stopped territorial expansion.
    It makes sense in an environment with increasing importance of intellectual property and control of the flow of resources because it's a focus on obtaining these essentials.