Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Most of the world is ignoring - except as a topic for idle comment - the bloody business going on in Syria.Mind you, the usual suspects (the Arab League, the UN) are saying the "right things"; they'd like to see the killing stop, they'd like "someone" to step in. The West, including my own country, is deploring all this nasty killing though rather sotto voce so as not to have to, you know, do something about it. So, as usual, it seems like everyone would like to guard the nice people being so brave and anti-dictator-y in Homs but no one really wants to BE the "guards", the actual guarding process being so messy and all.

And the Syrian government, having taken as a parole another Latin maxim - oderint dum metuant; let them hate so long as they fear - goes on its merry way killing those in opposition to it.

And I have only one real question; if Syria, why not elsewhere?

I mean, the Syrian government is rather nasty, although by historical measure not all that vile, and even much of current global practice not so much more so than many, including some that my country lavishes public affection and tax largesse upon.

But if the current ratissage in Homs (and elsewhere in Syria) is not practically the very definition of civil war, then, what is it? Yes, the rebels are getting hammered in a very bloodily unequal fashion. Since when has the suppression of rebellion become a non-contact sport?After the failure of the Third Servile Rebellion Crassus crucified 6,000 slaves along the Via Appia. In the aftermath of Sherman's Atlanta and Savannah campaigns thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Southern civilians suffered hellacious hardships. Many probably starved, or died of various diseases, or exposure. Rebellion is, and by political calculus must be, a hazardous thing; Tokugawa Ieyesu is said to have claimed that nothing justified rebellion other than success.

So perhaps I'm a fool, or being deliberately obtuse, but I fail to see in this ugly little civil war a casus belli for anyone not a Syrian in the same way I didn't get the enthusiasm for jumping into the Lybian fracas. While the al-Assad government is a pretty bad guy I don't see a "good guy" here any more than the Lybian TNC looked plausible as "good guys."

And, frankly, this current enthusiasm for leaping into other people's civil wars seems to be setting up a bad idea as conventional wisdom. It took a long time to set up the current Westphalian state system. It has a hell of a lot of flaws, but right now it seems about the best idea we have for providing people with the things government provides. And one of the fundamental pillars of the Westphalian state is the assumption that rebellion against the state is just that, and that unless a foreign state wishes to ally with the rebels in hopes of helping them become the state - with all the subsequent diplomatic and political connections that implies - the best thing that foreign state can be is neutral.

If we want to attack Syria, to my mind we'd be better off - as I insisted we should have done in Lybia - to just make a treaty with the rebels and jump in on one side. The notion of using the civil war as a reason to "fight for peace" seems silly to me in that it promises to expended at least treasure if not blood for very little tangible gain.

Hey, I don't like bullies, either. But I've been in enough playground fights to know that stepping into family fights to try and stop the hurting usually just gets you nothing but bruises while seldom solving the problems that started the fight in the first place.So you might say that everything I needed to know about Syria I learned in third grade. Not that I expect that anyone is going to listen. Just sayin' so I can say "I tol' ya so." I'm kind of an asshole like that.


  1. The marvy zenpundit is at the bleeding edge of the Right-to-Protect (R2P) movement. Quaint thinking about casus belli or "What happens after" need not apply. Who will think of the children?

    And when the real civil war hacking, slaughtering, raping and pillaging begins once the old "evil" regime is gone, well... at least all this new thinking let them get down to the serious bidness.

    Destabilizing Iraq worked out a little better than Cambodia.

    Time to stop being cowards, pick a side, and not feel any responsibility for what comes after. It is, after all, the American Way.

  2. Chief,

    I agree. Since I'm more an operational guy, I looked at some of the ideas floating around. None of them are very attractive IMO. Any short-term "success" would be countered by long-term problems.

  3. Agree. Too many competing interests.

    Why not work with the Russians, give Assad the option of free elections a year down the pike? Attempt to end the violence, but without intervention or regime change . . . Russian peacekeepers? Probably more acceptable to Assad than the Turks . . .

  4. Wise words Chief. Any action on our part is a lose-lose situation at this time.

    I do bleed though for the brave Syrians standing up to this thug. They were snookered by the West's response in Libya, thinking that Europe and America did that intervention out of the goodness of out hearts instead of for oil. It was a tough lesson to learn for them.

  5. How many Iraqi refugees are still in Syria?

    Last I heard there were several hundred thousand.
    Poor buggers, can't catch a break.

  6. Mike:

    I do bleed though for the brave Syrians standing up to this thug. They were snookered by the West's response in Libya

    But as Chief wrote, I don't see a "good guy" here any more than the Lybian TNC looked plausible as "good guys."

    Are we falling prey to the idea that anyone who opposes a strong arm ruler is a "good guy"?

    I don't claim to know Syria's proper answer to Syria's problems, but I am somewhat sure it is not an "American answer".

  7. And I don't want to sound all kumbaya; if there's a nation that can see a geopolitical gain in ramping around in the northeastern Levant as the nominal "ally" of the rebels of Homs, well, good cess to them. Using other countries' rebels as an excuse for annexing a bit of the other country or just a handy excuse for regime change is as old as Rome. I carried a rifle for 20 years - it's a little late for me to claim that I just want to givepeace a chance. That's where jim and I part ways - he has seen the foolishness of all wars. I still think of war like surgery; it's bloody, but sometimes it's what has to happen. I think his idea is "righter" than mine, but I'm still not there yet.

    No, what gets me in the giggy isn't the idea of bitchslapping the Assads over this but the recent enthusiasm for what srv calls this "right to protect" as casus belli. Ask any cop how often they get hugs and kisses for intervening in a "domestic dispute".

    NOT a good idea, let alone the precedent it sets. Does Spain want France worrying about the ETA, or Mexico a foreign power intervening to save the people in Chiapas when the campaign against the Zapatistas gets ugly? As the leader of the existing Westphalian status-quo I think the people in our governing classes and punditocracy need to be VERY careful what they wish for. We might not like the results.

  8. Chief,
    let's bottom line this syria thing.
    what have they done that's so bad!!????
    compare our actions in the pwot and those of syria.
    at least syria is aggresssing against their citizens.
    if we help them then we can create a new ally like todays arab spring egypt.
    we've fired 11,000 hellfire missiles thereby killing at least how many people.
    give the syrian military hellfires and all will be cool.

  9. jim: Well, Assad isn't our pal. If I thought there was a reasonable chance that the U.S. could toss him into the fire like a bit of nasty sausage off the grill AND end up with something better in Damascus I'd be all for it.

    But I don't. And if you follow Andy's link, our guy the zenpundit does a better job than I have of lining out why all this fighting-to-save-the-children is making several other powers, notable Russia and China - pretty itchy. That seals the deal for me; futile tax-dollar-burning in Syria combined with bad juju with the Eurasian Great Powers?

    Sorry, Homs. Nice try, thanks for playin'...

  10. It looks clear that the Westphalian system is breaking down. With the internet, the thugs in charge can't prevent detailed and colourful images of the mayhem. The rest of the world, can't avoid watching the horror. Sort of like rubbernecking on the road except that instead of seeing cars turned into wrecks you get to watch cities turned into ruins.

    The demands to *do something* will never end as the world watches one flaming rebellion after another.

    I have no idea what will replace Westphalia.

    I hope whatever does will allow us to deal with global "tragedy of the commons" problems like climate change.

  11. Westphalia? Nice place really, but nothing to do with what we're seeing imo. It's long past time to burn that threadbare Creveldian shroud.

    Last year Andrew Bacevich put the situation real well:

    "Europeans created the modern Middle East with a single purpose in mind: to serve European interests. With the waning of European power in the wake of World War II, the United States - gingerly at first, but by the 1980s without noticeable inhibition - stepped in to fill the void. What had previously been largely a British sphere now became largely an American one, with the ever-accelerating tempo of US military activism testifying to that fact.

    Although Washington abjured the overt colonialism once practiced in London, its policies did not differ materially from those that Europeans had pursued. The idea was to keep a lid on things, exclude mischief-makers, and at the same time extract from the Middle East whatever it had on offer. The preferred American MO was to align with authoritarian regimes, offering arms, security guarantees, and other blandishments in return for promises of behavior consistent with Washington's preferences. Concern for the wellbeing of peoples living in the region (Israelis excepted) never figured as more than an afterthought.

    What events of the past year have made evident is this: that lid is now off and there is little the United States (or anyone else) can do to reinstall it. A great exercise in Arab self-determination has begun. Arabs (and, arguably, non-Arabs in the broader Muslim world as well) will decide their own future in their own way. What they decide may be wise or foolish. Regardless, the United States and other Western nations will have little alternative but to accept the outcome and deal with the consequences, whatever they happen to be."

  12. Al -

    I agree 100% that there should not be an "American answer" to the bloodbath in Syria. Any military intervention on our part would be foolish and dangerous. And I agree with Chief that we do not know who the good guys are (if any) in this melee. But I certainly do not buy the Assad propaganda that the rebels are all Al Quaeda.

    And I reserve the right to sympathize for those in Syria that went to the streets against tanks and artillery because they believed that just like in Libya we would see the justice of their cause and come riding to the rescue. Apparently they never understood the powerful oil arguments that the Libyan rebels had in their favor. If Syria had any serious oil reserves then my bet is we would have been there already.

  13. Based on the long history of France in Syria, I have to wonder what their position on the current Syrian crisis is?

  14. Mike: And I reserve the right to sympathize for those in Syria that went to the streets against tanks and artillery because they believed that just like in Libya we would see the justice of their cause and come riding to the rescue.

    Unfortunately, the justice in anyone's cause can be very subjective and not universally accepted. I also grieve for those who made a less than optimal choice. "Ya gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run."

    What concerns me even more is any misguided fools who may think that bidding up the violence might draw the US in.

  15. Al -

    "...might draw the US in...

    Let us hope that does not happen. We need to be saved from Neolibs as well as Neocons.

    But as to whether the thousands of dead from the Syrian resistance were fools or tomorrows nationa heroes is still to be determined.

  16. Now that we all have expressed our opinions,

    -- everything I needed to know about Syria I learned in the third grade,

    -- we do not know who the good guys are,

    -- the good guys. What if there are none?


    I feel so much better and can bid the shade of Marie Colvin to go back to where she belongs, among those "who made less than the optimal choice."


  17. Paul: There are people that cannot be made better by beating them. There are wars that cannot be made better by stopping them.

    Would the US have been "better off" had the British stepped in in 1861 and secured the independence of the Southern states?

    Would England have been "better off" had the King of Denmark stepped in and stopped the Norman Conquest in 1067?

    Sometimes people have to make their own decisions, sometimes those decision are mistakes, and sometimes the consequences of those mistakes are dire.

    Do you suggest that the United States begin using the full weight of its geopolitical power to change that?

    I'm asking that not flippantly - it's one possible route for my nation to go, and it sounds as if you're willing to argue for it. Well, then, I'm willing to be convinced. At the moment, due to lifetime of watching that sort of armed intervention fail - from third grade bumfights to Iraqi checkpoints - I'm skeptical.

    But I'll admit that there IS an argument to be made there; if you have some good support for that brief, by all means, let us hear it.

  18. Seydlitz,

    Are you suggesting that there is a faction in Washington who actually wants to intervene in Syria in order to reinstall the "lid"?

    The way I read it, is that no decision makers actually want to intervene (although they may make a few partisan points over the issue).

    However, the civil war in Syria makes for good reporting (a good guy vs bad guy narrative with dramatic pictures and no demands for a royalty stream.)

  19. mike: I haven't read anything that suggested that this rebellion was driven by a hope for another Libya. The Alawite Assad regime has had problems with a number of its subject groups, including the Kurds (but, fuck, EVERYONE had problems with Kurds, even other Kurds...) but this seems to me to be more of the same sort of thing that happened back in the Eighties in Hama. Google "Hama Massacre" to get a peek at what Assad the Daddy did to the Sunnis who dissed him. I think this goes way deeper than JUST the Arab Spring or the Great Libyan Rescue

    And just because, as I mentioned in the post, I am an asshole, I should mention this little gem. Syria became independent from France in 1946. The Syrian Army executed a coup in March, 1949, beginning the great Syrian tradition of autocracy and military rule. And who were the little elves that helped GEN Zaim to power?

    "Declassified records confirm that beginning in November 1948, (Stephen)Meade (of U.S. Intelligence) met secretly with Syrian Army Chief of Staff Col. Husni Zaim at least six times to discuss the “possibility [of an] army supported dictatorship.” U.S. officials ealized that Zaim was a “‘Banana Republic’ dictator type” with a “strong anti-Soviet attitude.”

    Meade and Zaim completed plans for the coup in early 1949. On 14 March, Zaim “requested U.S.
    agents [to] provoke and abet internal disturbances ‘essential for coup d’etat’ or that U.S. funds be given him [for] this purpose.” Nine days later, Zaim “promised a ‘surprise’ within several days” if Meade could secure U.S. help.

    As rumors of a military coup grew stronger, Assistant Secretary of State George McGhee arrived in Damascus, ostensibly to discuss resettling Palestinian refugees but possibly to authorize U.S. support for Zaim. Shortly thereafter, students protesting government corruption and mishandling of the war with Israel took to the streets.

    On 30 March, Zaim staged his coup, arrested Quwatly and suspended the constitution. Meade reported on 15 April that “over 400 Commies [in] all parts of Syria have been arrested.”

    Zaim’s performance far exceeded Washington’s expectations. On 28 April, he told the U.S. ambassador that Syria was resuming peace talks
    with Israel and would consider resettling 250,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. On 16 May, Zaim approved ARAMCO’s TAPLINE. Two weeks later he banned the Communist Party and jailed dozens of left-wing dissidents. In July, he signed a Syrian-Israeli armistice. Zaim anticipated swift U.S. approval for $100 million in military and economic aid. However, on 14 August, Zaim was overthrown and executed by Col. Sami Hinnawi."

    ( can you see how U.S. "help" might be a teensy weensy bit hard to make work in Syria? I do...)

    But, hey...America! Fuck YEAH!

  20. Chief -

    Agree that this rebellion was not started by the hope of another Libya. I do believe though that it put fuel on the fire and brought out thousands to the streets that would not have been there otherwise. Yes you haven't read anything about it, but it is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Read the banners!

    I think most readers of this blog are well aware of what Bashir's poppy did in Hama 30 years ago. Zaim not so much maybe, but you have to wonder if our insistence that he make peace with Israel was the trigger for his downfall.

    Now the son is now channeling his father's actions, probably egged on by his uncle Rifaat who participated back in 82. Has he passed his father's mark of 10,000 dead civilians (some say 40)?

    BTW I do not see you as an asshole. Perhaps in your former life you were a corrupter of young 2nd Lieutenants. That is OK by me as that went with the job description, didn't it? And it needed doing in most cases.

  21. mike:

    And I reserve the right to sympathize for those in Syria that went to the streets against tanks and artillery because they believed that just like in Libya we would see the justice of their cause and come riding to the rescue

    I don't know if we can truly know the reasons behind this "revolution". I'm of the belief that it developed from the "outs" wanting "in" and the "ins" not letting them "in". As violence and death ensued, the reasoning morphed from political frustration and resentment to plain old fashioned revenge.

    My jurisdiction of Orthodoxy, Antiochian, last year sent a delegation to Syria to satisfy the worries of parishioners and relatives here. There is a religious connection between the US and Syria.

    But I haven't seen the outrage among the political writers and voices I frequent for Syria that I saw about Libya and Egypt.

    One Iraqi who fled to Syria is of extremely great concern to me.

    Syria is a beautiful country- at least I think it is. I say “I think” because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war- bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers… And in so many ways it’s different. The buildings are higher, the streets are generally narrower and there’s a mountain, Qasiyoun, that looms in the distance.
    We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

    The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.”


  22. ETA:

    I think the diplomacy of the world can be much improved by using this "2 front teeth missing 9 year-old kid" method.

    The ones in long-time use haven't worked that well, IMHO.


  23. Ael-

    There's also another element that I haven't seen brought up yet, but is important . . .

    "Although the majority of Arabs believe Syria’s President Basher al-Assad should resign in the wake of the regime’s brutal treatment of protesters, fewer Syrians are supportive of an immediate leadership change.

    According to the latest opinion poll commissioned by The Doha Debates, Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign. One of the main reasons given by those wanting the president to stay in power was fear for the future of the country.

    That level of support is not mirrored elsewhere in the region, with 81 percent of Arabs wanting President Assad to step down. They believe Syria would be better off if free democratic elections were held under the supervision of a transitional government."

    So, a majority of support within Syria, but a larger majority for change outside Syria . . . and this is just the Arabs and those inside Syria. Then we have the Turks, Israelis, Kurds . . .

  24. Chief, I have difficulty defending the proposition that the strong should act in defense of the weak. It’s sort of like trying to prove that water is wet or that parallel lines do not meet.

    Quibbles about the character of the victims, the purity of their motives or whether or not that they will express proper gratitude seem beside the point. Once the extreme power imbalance is corrected, Syrians can work out whatever sort of government they prefer.

    Intervention would have consequences, some of them, no doubt, counter to our interests. But one might suppose that action taken to slow the killing would have fewer downsides than, say, the torture of prisoners or the desecration of Qurans.

    The same sort of incomprehensible reluctance to act on the side of oppressed was shown during the Second World War. The Allies flew more than 300,000 sorties over Europe. Death camps and the railroad networks that fed those camps were never, so far as I can determine, targeted.

  25. Paul: But when do the strong "stop"? When the weak are the strong? We've seen that, it's happening in Libya right now, and it's likely to be as bloody as the original rebellion suppression was in the other direction before the killing stops assuming it does.

    To stop the deaths in the death camps we burned the heart out of Dresden, Hamburg, and Cologne, killing tens of thousands of kids under 16, women, old men, cats, dogs, name it, it burned. I'm not defending pacifism; the Nazis had to be stopped. But a German baby incinerated in a firestorm is as dead as a Jewish baby incinerated in an extermination camp oven. There's no good there, either one, only the "greater good" if the dead German baby can stop the killing of Jewish babies.

    But this isn't the death camps; this is an internal war where one side has more weapons than the other. As seydlitz has pointed out, something like around half of the Syrians are behind the Assad forces in one way or another. Assuming we the strong help their "weak" 45% become the there any reason that they will be any more merciful to the now-weak that sat on their hands while the then-strong killed the then-weak? So do we stay on, in hopes that we can stop the cycle of revenge killing? How long? And how many of the Sunnis to we kill to stop them killing the Alawites and their allies in revenge? How does that make us "the good"?

    Most wars, especially civil wars, are not neat good-vs-bad affairs like WW2. Here I don't see a way to MAKE this one a WW2-style "we'll just invade, defeat the forces of evil, and then everything will be good." Hasn't the example of the other interventions in the Middle East proved that? This place isn't Germany or Japan, a well-established industrialized nation with a history of the rule of law that was just "led astray" by Bad People. It is a chaotic demi-state with a history of internal war, chaos, Ottoman clusterfuckery, huge extremes of poverty and inequality, and a nasty streak of cultural revenge-seeking.

    I'm all for trying to keep bad people from killing good people or innocent people. But this one looks no better tha Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, or any of the other Middle Eastern places where Westerners have tried to muck around with their internal politics and are failed or have failed.

    "I am my brothers keeper" is a nice idea. But how do you make it work in practice?

  26. There is supposedly a large conference today on Syria by both Western and Arab countries to discuss possible ways to stop the bloodbath. Let us hope that they agree to impose sanctions on Assad at least as strong as those that have been put on Iran. And . . . that if military intervention is agreed on that the US stays out of it.

  27. FDChief-

    You commented: --To stop the deaths in the death camps we burned the heart out of Dresden, Hamburg, and Cologne, killing tens of thousands of kids under 16, women, old men, cats, dogs, name it, it burned. I'm not defending pacifism; the Nazis had to be stopped. But a German baby incinerated in a firestorm is as dead as a Jewish baby incinerated in an extermination camp oven. There's no good there, either one, only the "greater good" if the dead German baby can stop the killing of Jewish babies.--

    Do you actually believe that? That we fire bombed Hamburg, Dresden, Würzburg . . . to stop the Holocaust?

  28. seydlitz: "That level of support is not mirrored elsewhere in the region, with 81 percent of Arabs wanting President Assad to step down."

    A little insight. The Orthodox Christian Patriarch of Antioch has been the principal bishop of the Christian Church not only for Syria, but Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, and has been for some 1800 + years. The Assad government, as well as his predecessors have been supportive of the Patriarchate and have demanded a minimal level of tolerance from other Arab states. His opponents, along with other Arab Muslims do not wish to offer the Patriarchate and by extension, other historic branches (pre-Muslim) of Christianity, similar respect. The majority of Syrians are proud of the level of religious tolerance (but not Jews) and cooperation that is unique to Syria, something that is not as near and dear to the "rebels" or whatever they are to be called.

    I would note that persecution of Christians in Iraq was unheard of under Saddam. In 2000, while the wife and I were studying at the Orthodox Theological Institute at Cambridge Univ, as visiting Syria bishop spoke of how the Syrian government was a constant advocate for Orthodox Christians in the other Arab countries. When a student asked about prohibitions against new church buildings in the Arab world, the bishop said that in one country, for example (which one escapes me) as long as the exterior was not blatantly indicative of an Orthodox Church, no problems were encountered. Thus, the Church could still build and grow, as long as it didn't "rub the local Muslims' nose in it". All thanks to the Syrian government.

    So, it might be a bit easier to understand why
    That level of support is not mirrored elsewhere in the region, with 81 percent of Arabs wanting President Assad to step down.

  29. Al-

    Interesting. Yes, I have heard the same from others. At the same time a good friend here was in Syria last year and found the place "the most oppressive" he had ever visited. He said that the tension was everywhere and there was a feeling that things could get very nasty, quickly.

    Seriously, I think we should work with the Russians and hammer out some plan to stop the violence. It seems that Assad thinks he has to use maximum force to impose his rule quickly before the resistance gets any stronger, which is a sure way to only increase bloodshed and mobilize outside resistance. A destabilized Syria is in nobody's interest as I see it.

  30. seydlitz: No, no, we could have cared less about the Holocaust. We did it to stop Nazi conquest. But Paul's point was about the "strong defending the weak", and the net effect of crushing Nazism was stopping the Holocaust.

    OK, one back at you: "Seriously, I think we should work with the Russians and hammer out some plan to stop the violence." My question would be - why would Assad want to stop the violence, short of crushing the Homs insurgency? I mean, assuming the rebels win, what has he got to look forward to, other than what Gaddafi got? We've talked about how the rebels might have looked to the Libyan intervention for their inspiration - if I was ol' Assad I'd be looking there, too, and getting a very different inspiration.

  31. And just a general observation about the "strong defending the weak"...

    That can work pretty well if the strong and the weak are in the same in-group. In fact, most societies have some sort of pact where people and groups with power are expected to help, or at least not harm, those without. So cops only arrest civil crooks, not innocent people, soldiers shoot declared enemies, not their own civilians.

    Obviously in a dictatorial regime this logic breaks down. But it also doesn't work well when the strong are in a different group from the weak. So in WW2 we can bomb foreign cities - and foreign civilians - flat because our "strong" are protecting our "weak" by killing "their weak". The rationales get pretty tortured when you get out there that far...

    Anyway, I'm generally all in favor of trying to prevent bad things happening to harmless people. But I'm also NOT in favor of "doing something" when you can't have even half a chance of being sure that what you're doing will produce a better result than what's there. Sending my Army brothers to kill Syrians to stop them killing other Syrians? You could sell me on that.

    But sending them to flip-flop Syrian A from killing Syrian B so Syrian B can kill Syrian A?

    Not so much.

  32. You ever read David Gardner's book, "Last Chance"? It was the book recommended by the old Middle East hands in our organization when my friend went to Syria. It's still on my "to read pile" . . .

    Anyway Gardner says that the various Arab governments share certain overarching features: they are autocratic, they are kept in power by the military/Mukhabarat, and their leaders face a crisis of legitimacy.

    We say "Assad" when actually we mean something else . . . how much of "Assad" is actually the Syrian Mukhabarat scared shizless that they're going to end up in a very nasty way. Right now they don't think they have a way out. To that the context of Syrian resistance is not the same as the Libyian and I think time will bear that out.

    The Russians have been in Syria for how long? They obviously have pull and interests they wish to keep. They would be acceptable peace keepers (not alone obviously) but holding the Syrian Army back. Free elections in one year.

    Those fighting right now, if they had the chance to stop fighting, return to their barracks, put down their arms . . . the option might look pretty good.

    At this point in time deescalation may still be possible . . .

  33. "At this point in time deescalation may still be possible..."


    The cossacks work for the czar. Get rid of the czar and things usually don't go so well for the cossacks. So one of the very reasons I don;t think that has a good chance of working out well is all that 55% of Syria that has some skin in the Assad game. No matter who plays "peace keeper" there's a strong chance that there is no peace; as you mention, most Arab societies are and have been based on a sort of "winner-take-all" basis. It's a zero-sum game - for me to win, you have to lose. So the present rebels become the government and sit there calmly, whetting their knives under the table as whothehellever struts around talking about peace and democracy as the former regime types sit and sweat, knowing that moment the ferenghi leaves they get what the sheep gets at halal time...

    And you'll note that Russia and China are the most immovable forces against intervention. Because the Russians know damn well that they couldn't have done to Chechnya, and the Chinese to Tibet and the Uighrs, what the Assadites are doing to Homs if this standard begins to be applied across the board. Qui bono, remember..?

    Rebellion suppression is a brutally ugly business, but since the inception of nation-states it's been generally conceded by foreign policy ground rules to be the business of the state involved. Foreigners can certainly use an internal rebellion as a casus belli if they want to, and have, but generally speaking that's been recognized as the partisan act it is. Setting up some sort of "international permit" to intervene in a country because you don't like the WAY they're suppressing their internal rebellion? Seems like a bad idea in general and, to historically autocratic and fairly brutal nations like Russia and China? Reeeeeeally bad idea. I don't think they'll go for it, unless it's to arrange some sort of power grab for one of their supporters to make sure that Russian influence remains a force in post-Assad Syria...

  34. We're not talking about intervention. We're talking about offering the Syrian government a way out of where they are now. Do you think the Syrians, Iranians, Chinese or Russians want Syria to go up in flames? We have no credibility with the Syrians, in fact we don't really have credibility with hardly anyone, well except Israel, kinda. And guess what they want?

    So, my suggestion, which is something other than large explosions . . .

  35. Ok, peacekeepers are intervention, but that is not how I meant it. Rather as a guarantee to the Syrians. With the Russian good cop we could play the bad . . . their presence - there are precedents - would preclude possible action from us.

  36. All I needed to know, I learned from Gene Rodenberry:

    The Prime Directive:
    Nothing within these Articles Of Federation shall authorize the United Federation of Planets to intervene in matters which are essentially the domestic jurisdiction of any planetary social system, or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under these Articles Of Federation.

    "The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."
    —Jean-Luc Picard

  37. I see a patern here. After turning backward, monarch ruled totalitarian states(no, i don't mean Saudi Arabia, christ, they are our allies!!!)into democratic heavens in a year or ten, something us backward europeans are trying to do since...Cromwell's time, (or is it Perikles of Athens, i am not sure), it is Syria's time .I dont believe that the good ole U.S of A is taking out of the game Iran's biggest allie in the area and major provider of support for Hezbollah, the thorn in Israel's side, preparing for the strike, do you? I am curious if they will use a "strike" on a US ship by, "Iranians" as a pretext again this time. It worked so well in the past with "Lusitania" and the Tonkin Bay incident. From a NATO allie who sees the "orange revolution" coming his way.

  38. Hmmm.

    OK. I guess I can see what you're driving at. Still don't see why either of the parties you're hoping for would want to go there.

    Assad gets nothing other than a vague promise that he'll get a couple of months or years before he has to do this all over again, or get forced into exile, or killed. And he'd want to do this rather than crush the uprising...why?

    And I don't see this as the Russians (or Chinese) giving half a shit about Syria one way or the other. It's about Chechnya (or Belorussia, or Georgia...) or whatever future part of Russia wants to break off and has to be bloodily crushed. They don't want this precedent and, frankly, if we had half a brain neither would we. It's a blank check for foreign intervention into domestic business, and as the leader of the global "stability" faction we should be very leery of anything that lends itself to encouraging one nation to mess militarily with another for reasons not directly related to self-defense.

    It's a sign of the degree of geopolitical sloth in DC that this "RTP" nonsense has gone as far as it has. We seem to think that we will always have the military superiority we have now and will never be on the receiving end of this stuff...

  39. to all,
    what did we do when the south went into confederation and rebellion? if only Lincoln had tanks.
    our template makes syria look like wimps.
    again it's do as i say and not -do what i did.
    now we're big daddy.
    PKO isn't.


    Well, there you go. Symphathetic but clueless meets realistic and experienced.


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  42. Ackerman continues:

    Then there’s a more general problem with the Responsibility to Protect, as instantiated in Syria. The endgame of Slaughter’s proposal is a “regional, and ultimately national, truce.” Then what? Do the international forces go home? Do they still patrol the “no-kill zones”? Why, on the day after the truce, with Assad still in power, do both sides — and particularly Assad — bide time until a renewed attack looks advantageous? Do foreign forces stop arming the rebels after the truce?

    Now, why do I say this is a broader problem with the Responsibility to Protect? Because it shows that the R2P is a military endeavor that still lacks actual, substantive objectives for militaries to achieve. If I am one of the Qatari SOF captains who has to aid the “no-kill zones,” I don’t know from Slaughter’s guidance how to design my operational campaign. I get that I have to help the Free Syrian Army clear out a “no-kill zone” of loyalist Syrian troops; I can presume that I must hold that zone. But what happens when I get mortar fire from the loyalists who’ve pulled back? Does protecting that zone mean I can push it outward? If it does, then I am escalating the objectives as Slaughter has described them; if it doesn’t, then I have failed to hold the no-kill zone. This is a military illogic that is all over the R2P. Advocates don’t want to concede that they’re actually calling for regime change — often, they don’t want to call for regime change — so they stop short of that, and call for separating combatants in the hope that a deus ex machina materializes. But the further they stop short, the more problems they hand off to the military commanders who must implement the R2P.

    Just what's be said here.



    I don't want to bother with putting up a new thread, but at the end of this clip, not so clueless it seems.

    IOW, sanctions are in place ( sanctions won't work, I agree with the Iranian journalist in the clip ) against Iran, not to compel Iran to conform with what we want, but to prevent an Israeli strike.


  44. To all,
    my art on RAW today titled ZIPPO addresses this issue.