Sunday, September 01, 2013

Syrians travelling to Munich

We cannot call it quite a disaster yet, but it is getting dangerously close.

Let's start with a personal disclaimer here: since I did not have a blog when Iraq was invaded you will need to take my word for it that I was against the invasion promoted by Bush II and his colleagues, Tony Blair in particular. You will never find in this blog a positive reference to the Iraq mess, and several as to why the Iraq war favored Chavez a lot, allowing him to slowly but surely transform Venezuela democracy into a neo-totalitarian one while the US was unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Then again Chavez for all of his anti US rhetoric was very careful to send to Bush all the oil he could send him. Afghanistan is another matter and its eventual failure has probably a lot to do on the US also going into Iraq.

I would like to point out that on this particular respect I have agreed with the French governments that went into Afghanistan but not into Iraq, and that are now the lone allied of Obama into going against Syria even though they risk to be left alone as the anglosaxon powers seem to be more chastised than what they should be.

Now, getting back on topic. My position is quite simple: if any rogue regime in the world uses chemical or biological weapons it should be severely punished. That the Russians refuse to acknowledge that, that the Western Democracies who suffered the most from chemical warfare are finding themselves tied in knots speaks ill of the state of the world and its capacity to solve the conflicts looming in the horizon. If the anti Assad debacle is confirmed in the next couple of weeks it will simply be an open invitation for rogue regimes to start thinking about these weapons to help them retain power, such as the thugs now in charge of Venezuela who have already demonstrated their easy use of the strongest forms of tear gas.

What is the hold up? That the UN is held back by China and Russia? That did not stop in the past. That Syria is a civil war? That did not stop the Libya intervention. That we do not know whether Assad or the insurrection used the chemical weapons? Not only the odds are overwhelmingly against Assad for using the forbidden weapons, but a few well placed missiles are the best deterrent against him to use them in retaliation in case the insurgency had managed such a feat!

That the right in the US, and because of it now in France, are feeling empowered to criticize their country's government into action, while the left does the same in the UK is only a witness on how politics are now hostage to populism and welfare preservation at any cost without retaining a minimum of ethics. We are in a stupefying world Munich moment. Some countries like Russia deliberately disregard uncomfortable evidence of the genocide that Assad has been perpetrating in the last two years. Others prefer actually, if secretly, Assad to win because they left the radical Islamism penetrate the insurrection by not helping this one on time. Others like the US have such knee jerks pacifists that think that not bombing Assad will protect them from future 9/11 that they are ready for perverse political coalitions to sink their leader. And some like Germany are only too glad to hide behind a conveniently ineffective UN. And let's not go into the Arab/Muslim world having their little religious proxy war in Syria regardless of the suffering of the population.

I am totally disgusted. Yes, indeed, the Syrian mess looks now like a no win situation. But it did not have to become so, and surely there is a better way to deal with the situation today than what is happening in Western Democracy capitals who will not avoid future terrorists attacks, whether they bomb Assad. Am I the only one seeing that? Am I also the only one that sees that quite a few countries are going to be encouraged in becoming more repressive, from Burma to Venezuela, from Sudan to Pakistan, from Cuba to Russia?

45 comments:

  1. Charly12:25 AM

    The nation-state is failing. It was predicted by Martin Van Creveld, but I never thought it would come so quickly. Time to find an alternative and just hope the UN World Government is not it. In fact small is beautiful, most successful countries are small.

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  2. Anonymous12:36 AM

    I'm against "punitive strikes"...why kick the beehive again. War is not illegal, civil war is even less illegal...chemical weapons are illegal. Come up with a way to intervene to remove them from the equation, and you have a plan. Don't know if that is possible, but that should be the humane goal of outsiders.

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    1. Wishful thinking is what leads to Munich.

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  3. Lemmy Caution1:20 AM

    I disagree.
    US should stop with this super power folklore. We the West aren't able to manage politics in the Middle East, Latin America, etc. We tend to mess things up and in the end US is used as a scapegoat.
    There's a civil war arab oil money financed religious zealouts vs a cleptocratic, human rights abusing de facto monarchy... Looks like Godzilla vs King Kong in those japanese/korrean movies from the 60ties. And now we should explain to them that using chemical weapons is a bad idea, using bombs as an argument?
    Military as a mean for humanitarian goals to some extend kind of worked in ex-Yugoslavia, but there lots of European money was available to tune things down AFTER the military victory.
    The power structure of this planet is such, that in civil wars outside Europe we need the most broadest coalition possible, which means Russia and China included. Even from Libya, we don't get good news.
    We should open economically. I dream of the day, when our public coffers are so empty, that we have to significantly reduce our agricultural subventions. But we just can't police conflicts in regions, where there is no empathy for us. When Chavismo radicalizes such, that it puts you in jail, I am all for airstrikes if necessary, but in Syria the West can't win, if we involve our military.
    If the use of chemical weapons in a Godzilla vs King Kong situation is so unacceptable by any means, how do we accept children dying because of hunger each hour?
    Clearly cynical, Sunzu, Clausewitz and stuff, but we have to accept that there are situations where the possible ripple effects of actions are so unforeseeable, layered and complex, that we better look out for the greatest possible coalition, real assheads as Putin included.

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    1. I think you are confusing many issues there so it is difficult to reply cogently.

      I suggest that you read my post again and observe that 1) I focus on chemical weapons that are beyond the pale, even beyond nuclear weapons in my opinion, and 2) that you should note that no one, NO ONE is talking of setting foot in Syria.

      Also it is IMPOSSIBLE to broker a diplomatic solution because Russia and China are rogue states so they will NEVER side against another rogue state. That they abstain on Libya was due that Qaddafi never bothered to befriend a super power, Assad did not do that mistake. So we can be peaceniks and wait for the Chinese or Putin to become more sensible or we can prove on occasion that there is a line that should not be crossed. What are the odds of the former?

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    2. Also, read my post to see that the mistakes were done earlier. Now we have a problem. So, do you think that wishing it away will make the problem disappear?

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    3. Alabama Farmer3:00 PM

      I remember posting here a long time ago that the only way out of Chavez was violence and you pooh pooh the idea because you were a "pacifist". Your moral superiority was repulsive -as usual.

      So what happened to your pacifism?

      Obviously you never had a "red line" with reference to Chavez even though if Venezuela is not a "rogue" state I don't know what a "rogue state" is.

      Assuming that you turned in a "hawk" - as an aside let me speculate that it is because the president of the United States if for gay rights so you are going to support whatever stupid action he takes- let me ask you a couple of questions:

      1. The gas killed 1000+ people but the Syrian war has killed more than 100000 where were you when those hundreds were being killed - or you have a special thing with gas.

      2. You declare Russia and China as "rogue" states, should the USA then launch missiles at them. If not now then when? When is the Munich moment with regards to "rogue states"?

      3. What is your position with Iran? Should they be allowed nuclear weapons? Do you have a "red line" re: Iran?

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    4. Besides your comparison of apples and oranges and a particular despicable line, people like you never cease to amaze me. If my blog sucks, if I harbor a repulsive moral superiority, why do you keep returning?

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    5. NorskeDiv1:46 AM

      I find the offhand references to gay rights particularly distasteful, as if gay rights are a color preference or ice cream flavor. If you support them, then they are as important as any other right, not an afterthought. Until certain polticians, and their supporters, get this through their thick skulls they won't make any headway with a growing segment of the population.

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  4. Daniel,

    OK, this reminds me of a short story by Heinrich Böll: "something will happen". He goes on and on through the story about the absolute necessity of something to happen and that something MUST happen.

    The devil is in the detail. When I hear someone like defence minister Hague talk, I cringe. I remember how he very stupidly declared he had it from good sources (GCHQ?) Gaddafi was on his way to Venezuela. At that moment I knew, as any average Venezuelan, 1) that Gaddafi was NOT going to Venezuela and 2)
    that the Libyan forces would become strengthened for several weeks more out of that false statement ("if he lied now, they are always lying, so don't turn to the rebels).

    These guys apparently didn't have a plan. What are they going to do? Most Syrian military centres are embedded in the cities where people live.

    I don't know what should happen now. The West should have intervened over 2 years ago, when the ones dominating the resistance were mostly moderate and laic people. Now? I don't know. They don't seem to have any plan other than "strike, use the tools Lockheed & Martin and BAE puts at our disposal and then see".

    The regime in Damascus has to go. My fear is that the most powerful state on Earth, one that has put man on the Moon, again doesn't have a plan when it comes to military intervention (and a strike will lead to it)

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    1. The only hope, and of the faintest kind at that, is for the two sides to seat down and negotiate some form of federation. But with an Assad holding back and willing to go all the way through a genocide if need be, this does not seem an option. A surgical strike is the only thing I can think of that would bring him to a negotiating table. The more so when he realizes that his options are fast becoming to be killed by a rocket or be hung by the rebellion.

      But I agree that foot soldiers will not work unless the foot soldiers come from Arab countries only too happy once again to let the West take the hit. Since crusade times we know, Lawrence included, that the Eastern Mediterranean is something to stay away from.

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  5. What the US are really considering at this point is a symbolic action against the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian government.Some years ago a limited action like this would not have been much of an issue, but because of all of the negative precedents starting with the Iraq war and mistaken intelligence about weapons of mass destruction it has become politically unpopular to undertake any kind of action at all.The freedom of action that US presidents used to have in this regard has been greatly limited and the factors mentioned by Daniel about political polarization, has led to a near paralysis, not only in National Security matters but in other areas as well.

    Although in a practical sense it would be the correct and the strategically worthwhile action to take , there is no certainty it will happen.I agree with Daniel on most of his points.


    However I think that instead of focusing on whether or not the US should intervene, the real focus should be on the perversity of the Russians and Chinese in blocking any UN action, although it is mentioned , nearly in passing, not enough emphasis is given to this and specifically Europe with its dependence and fear of the Russians and who prefer to focus most of their criticism, whether they are for or against the strike , on the US.

    In the end, the US is the scapegoat, just as Lemmy Caution mentioned.This creates a situation for many here in the US to tend towards isolationism which should not be confused with pasivism.

    A system in which the legitimacy that only the UN can confer can be withheld by Russia and China puts the West in a position of having to act in an Internationally illegitimate way to be able take any action at all.

    firepigette

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  6. I don't know if you saw this http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-syria-military-action.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 but regional condemnation of human rights violations is something we have yet to see in LatAm with Unasur, Mercorsur, Andean Pact or even their weekly domino games. This changes the game.

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    1. Except that human rights there depend on whether you are Suni or Shia. Even Venezuela today has more freedom than Saudi or Iran.

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  7. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/who-benefits-from-a-war-between-the-united-states-and-syria

    suggests the war in Syria is pipeline driven. Europe, the Gulf States and Turkey stand to gain if Assad falls and the Gulf-to-Europe pipeline is built. Russia (who currently holds the gas monopoly that is throttling Europe), Iran (who wants to build a an Iran-to-Europe pipeline with Russian help) and Syria stand to lose.

    The Saudis offered Russia that Saudi Arabia would not compete (cartel?) against Russia's gas monopoly in Europe if it let Assad fall but Russia naturally refused. Why trust the Saudis?

    The US on the other hand stands to gain nothing by playing the mercenary. Or perhaps Obama is sympathetic to the Sunni side of the Syrian civil war. Or perhaps Obama is being blackmailed since the Saudis are quite capable of allowing oil prices to shoot up causing the US economy to take a dive. That would be incredibly dangerous at the moment, given what is happening inside the US economy. Most interesting is that this period of pre-war diplomacy coincides with flash crashes in the oil markets, a sign of manipulation by high frequency trading machines, e.g. as recently as 09/01/2013.

    Christian communities have always played the role of hostage in Middle East history. Both Shiite and Sunni regimes have hung the native Christian population by the noose and dangled it before the averted eyes of European powers. Most of the time, it has not worked, but sometimes it has and Western powers have allowed themselves to be blackmailed. The result has been that the Christian population in Shiite and Sunni areas of influence has dwindled to almost nothing in the 20th century, in what historians might recognize as one of the greatest genocides/ethnic cleansings in history. Christians used to be 20% of the population in the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century, today they are less than 3% and the Pope is saying that 100K Christians a year are being savagely killed (not just oppressed, but slaughtered) every year because of their faith, 99% of them by Muslims. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/06/03/vatican-official-says-100000-christians-are-killed-each-year-because-of-their-faith/.

    So nothing has changed here really...

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    1. "pipelines" are also favorite conspiracy theory even though harsh economic numbers and security concerns make supertankers a better option. Besides, there are already pipelines crossing Syria. Even if Assad goes, bringing a bigger pipe through Syria is not something I would invest in.

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    2. See? I was right after all...
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics-live/liveblog/the-houses-syria-hearing-live-updates/#e68f139f-e012-476c-876e-2467ba30e5e3

      “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.”

      “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.”

      As you say, words fail me... For starters, the people who will get paid (the politicians) are NOT going to be the same are those who will get sent to shed their blood (the poor whites, the blacks, the hispanics )... this will tear the nation apart. And please let us not start with the limited nature of the attack. Nobody knows where a war winds up once it gets started. US citizens will die, lots of them.

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  8. Anonymous1:10 PM

    - Iraq used chemical weapons against the Kurds and the world stood by...?
    - Why is it always the US that is expected to police the world...?
    - While I do not favor an intervention in Syria, Obama is finally exposed as a coward...!
    - The anti-west cesspool called UN should decide...?

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  9. I assume that the Munich reference is to the “peace in our time” nonsense when Neville Chamberlain returned and declared that he and Herr Hitler had found the way to peace. There could well have been peace in Europe if action had been taken in response to Germany's rather obvious treaty violations in re-arming – then. There was no stomach for it, so Germany managed to re-militarize quite well in advance of WWII. How would an attack by the United States and or her allies on the Assad regime bring peace, anywhere, unless Assad et al were removed from the scene, along with “freedom fighters” from Al-Quada, Al-Nusra. et al? I do not think it would.

    Were the United States now to intervene in Syria for only a short time with no boots on the ground, as President Obama has thus far indicated is his plan, what could be accomplished? Get rid of the chemical weapons? Not without blowing them up and likely scattering poison gas more widely than the Assad regime is alleged to have done. “Punish” Assad by taking out his other military assets? Even before President Obama's Saturday address on waiting for the Congress to do something, there had been lots of time to move many such assets to populated areas, including to school and probably hospitals. It is my understanding that Assad has done so. Is there a reason to assume – or even to hope – that his chemical weapons have not been (or will not be) moved as well, also to places where those that are not destroyed, with heavy civilian casualties, will not fall into the hands of “freedom fighters” no better than Assad? Since the Congress will not likely act until after September ninth, Assad's military assets will be even harder to take out without harming substantially more “innocent civilians” than Assad's alleged chemical attacks did.

    I am disgusted as well and agree that there is now nothing effective that can be done militarily. Following September ninth there will not likely be either; at least I have not been able to think of anything.

    If, rather than publicly and unilaterally declaring his “red line,” President Obama had, with as little publicity as possible, contemporaneously sought congressional approval of military actions to be taken were that line crossed, the situation might now be better. His unilateral public declaration of a Syrian “red line,” particularly with no specificity as to what would be done were it to be crossed, was grossly incompetent.

    Perhaps he should learn from his mistakes and approach the Congress to seek advance approval of whatever military actions he hopes to take should Iran cross his “red line” by building nuclear arsenal.

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    1. Anonymous2:22 PM

      Obama incompetent? The messiah? Brilliantly avoiding responsibility by consulting congress? Yet making the macho "I have the authority to act alone" statement? Naaaah...
      Mike

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    2. NorskeDiv10:13 PM

      That claim to executive power came long before Obama. The fact that he backed down and is consulting congress was the correct thing to do, that congress will probably be unwilling to act is not Obama's responsibility.

      PS. When you put "The Messiah" into your statement it makes it hard to take you seriously.

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    3. Anonymous10:50 AM

      On your PS: the "messiah" connotation is NOT of my making. Please google "Obama messiah" and you shall be enlightened.
      Mike

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    4. Anonymous11:20 AM

      And btw, have you noticed that it seems like nothing is ever Obama's responsibility in pretty much any crisis situation? But he sure is always at the front of the line when it comes to taking credit.
      Mike

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  10. Syria is a lose-lose situation because when Assad leaves, there will be a fundamentalist regime that takes place and we will have the horror pendulum moving to the other side. When the attacks took place I was wondering that it made no sense that Assad had gassed his own people since he was given a warning. He had the most to lose if a chemical attack took place.

    Now, re-evaluating the situation I think that my thinking may have been flawed. In fact, Assad may have very well gassed his own people just to show the rebels that he could do so, despite the warnings from the West.

    If the US have real data showing that Assad was behind the attack, we have no choice: he must be punished. We cannot allow anyone in the world using chemical or nuclear weapons.

    In fact, without going as far as WWII, Saddam Hussein once gassed the kurds and nobody, absolutely nobody, did anything about it.If the West had intervene at the time, maybe the IRAQ war could have been avoided years later.

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  11. Dan and Bruni

    In a way my reply can serve both of you.

    The West democracies carved their own ditch where they fell flat on their face, the French, unusually on the principled stance for a change. What happened in London and started the whole spiral is simply shameful. It is also irresponsible because whoever wins in Syria, if anyone ever wins, will harbor terrorism all the same. Has not Syria been implicated in terrorist attempts in the past? And all the time in Lebanon?

    Not doing anything has a cost. Doing something has a cost. It would be comforting if at least we knew the why of a decision, whichever that one is.

    As for the Kurds. I remember that an flying exclusion zone was put over Kurdistan after the gassing. It is not that the West did not reply, it did so differently. A flying exclusion zone is impracticable in Syria because the civil war is spread everywhere. And there are too many aerial corridors passing over or around Syria. Kurdistan was more isolated commercial aviation wise. Also it seems, but I am not sure, that the gas was sent through rockets, bazookas or the like, not necessarily from airplanes.

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    1. I think a large amount of people in the USA are dismissing the argument that the Americans should go and intervene in Syria due to some sense of nobility, that America as a superpower owns the responsibility to bring peace and stability to the middle east.

      Frankly I'm not into that argument either, not when you see the consequences that the Iraq war brought to America, and the thousands of lives claimed by the war, and in the end, it turns out the Arab world are not really into the whole idea of democracy.

      I'm no fan of Asad, but if the evidence suggests that Assad did gassed his own people, then let the UN act! That's why they exist for crying out loud. Do you really want the American people to pick up the check of an unnecessary war, sorry "limited strike", and to spill blood of young people to free a people that for all we know don't want to be freed, sorry "no boots on the ground", instead marines will be sent with crocs, then we will see Carney with his hard face stating "well... technically those are not boots..."

      BTW, I think all this problem could have been avoided if Obama had acted two years ago, and later by avoiding his ridiculous "red line" statement, so what? is Ok to commit genocide with bullets and weapons, but chemical weapons is somewhat not Ok. I mean you got to be kidding me.

      And then you have to hear McCain, Pelosi and liberals, making the case for Syria and the necessity to intervene just to save the face of President Obama, who by the way was one the most active opponents of the war in Iraq, and along other members of the democratic party, spoke about the futility of intervening in the middle east with violence. Now it seems that they don't remember that anti-war stance when they were bickering like hyenas trying to win the Presidential race back in 2008. Oh so know y'all have collective amnesia?

      The Irony doesn't get any better, first NSA then the war in Syria. What's next? What phony scandal will come next to prove that Obama wasn't so much of a change. the "Yes we can" speech is forever lost.

      Let's not kid ourselves, if America goes and intervene in Syria, with a vast majority of the American people opposing to it, is not because some sense of nobility, is just to save face of President Obama and his ridiculous "red line". No wonder a president like Obama get easily bullied by Putin and the Chinese.

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  12. Daniel, you say,

    Not doing anything has a cost. Doing something has a cost. It would be comforting if at least we knew the why of a decision, whichever that one is.

    I agree. We don't know which alternative(s) the U.S.and others will select (there are many sides and more alternatives but few, if any, of the alternatives remain viable), why they have been or will be selected or what the costs -- in human lives and resources on multiple sides and multiple places places -- may be. In a free Republic, we should and the U.S. Congress should. We do not, will not and neither does or will the Congress.

    In view of the incompetent jerks in charge, and of the "movers and shakers" on all sides, we and much of the rest of the "free" world are in for a grand kerfuffle.

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    1. NorskeDiv10:31 PM

      Above all, I think Americans are sick and tired of interventions. Your idea that congress might have written, in advance, a blank check to Obama for military strikes if Assad used chemical weapons is interesting, but unlikely. Frankly I think there is zero chance the Republicans would have granted such a thing, not only that but they would have been joined by many dovish democrats.

      The conclusion I've drawn is that people should forget the idea of "never again." Leaders can and will slaughter their own citizens, and they will get away with it as long as they have a friend in the security council. Whatever the case, the world has moved far in that direction and western leaders are simply operating in that shrinking window of interventionism.

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  13. Lemmy Caution11:32 PM

    Iraq started to use gas as one of the pillars of their defense strategy in the Iraq-Iran war. The west did nothing. If I remember right Iraq was a weapons customer of Europe and the US at that time. There never was a principled stance on our Middle East policy.

    Our german secret service informed to have intercepted a telephone call, where a hizbola guy talked with the Iranian Embassy about that Assad has lost nerves and used gas.

    Well now for an airstrike in yet another Middle East country, where we actually have neither a plan nor the money for reconstruction and this time not even a group in the conflict, which at least says to be sympathetic to our values.

    Here's what Robert Fisk has to say about intervening militarily in Syria: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/iran-not-syria-is-the-wests-real-target-8789506.html
    Another poor idiot, who lacks the capability to think "coherently" about Middle East matters. He calls it the stupidest War of the West ever. And Fisk actually saw victims of gas attacks.

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    1. Well, I think Fisk has thought more coherently about other matters in the Middle East before, but he has been losing me lately a lot. I also read that article and I found it a mess. Yeah, there has been a war by proxy between the US and Iran for decades now all over the case, but this is another matter.

      Russia does not want to lose its last post of influence in that region. Syria has been a good client to Russians as well.

      But I don't know what the US can do right now. What does a strike means? Bomb some military facilities in Damasco and elsewhere? They probably know by now quite some civilians are going to die from this
      and the Assad regime will make sure enough civilians keep living close to those facilities. Can the US then say "oh, Assad kept them there"?

      I pity the people of Syria.

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  14. Lemmy Caution,

    Let us use a bit of logic here.

    There was never any principled stance in the Middle East?

    1. It is illogical to assume that you know everyone's past motivations

    2. If indeed we made nothing but mistakes in the past based on self centeredness, and totally lacking integrity, why should we continue in the present??

    3. Does it make sense to you that if we made a mistake in 1970, that we should automatically be making one now?Or even that we automatically have same motivations of any kind?

    4. The fact that something might be good for one faction does not AUTOMATICALLY take away from the fact that it can also be good for the other.

    5.Some people assume that Germany made many unprincipled mistakes in the past.Does that automatically condemn them on present actions taken?

    firepigette

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    1. Lemmy Caution3:36 AM

      Dear Cochino de fuego,

      I truely enjoy when somebody calls my way of thinking as disordered like ex-SED guys in Eastern Berlin do or ignoring basic logic as you do.

      Again: About what principled stance are you talking, if the US accepts massive usage of gas during Iraq-Iran war by Iraq and now sees it as a reason for airstrike?

      During the years I have met a lot of people from the region, mostly as co-workers or in the University and even school. Some have become friends. With a lot I have lost contact. My closest cousin now works as a Regenerative Energy Manager in Abu Dhabi.
      I can assure you that even among those mostly very western minded guys and galls, the western Middle East politics in the region aren't by any means popular.

      I am the offspring of a culture that finally got that democracy, rule of the law, protection for minorities, etc. are positive values. That process has cost the life of many 10s of millions of people, of which about 5 millions or so were tortued in the most cruel way. So I should really understand that there might be situations, in which the internal dynamics of societies play against the values of the Age of Enlightment.

      The so called Arab "spring" has resulted in a disaster. Even in Tunisia with its relatively numerous educated urban middle class, they now exclude audience from football matches of their first league for fear of violence. Those are the things, that really shock me.

      The conflict in Syria so far cost the lifes of 100.000 people. We count 1,7 million refugees. Now a gas attack has killed a few hundreds. In Middle East wars gas attacks are used sometimes, even from the side to which the US has been more sympathetic at the time like Iraq 30 years ago. This is no isolated case. When the Assad/Hezbola aliance will corner the Al Quaída led alliance more, the Suni probably will use gas, too. Even over there gas is a problematic tool, mostly used when one side feels a immediate danger to be overrun by the other side. I see no danger that it will spill over to other regions like say Latin America. It simply won't be tolerated.

      An air strike will only prolong this terrible war. I've lost any hope, that this time will be different.

      We should keep the shut out of that region. Maybe a war strictly among them, will finally create some katharsis.

      At this point the most ruthless groups of the region learnt how to integrate US airstrikes in their cynical calculations and use them for their own sinister goals.

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    2. Lemmy Caution,

      Perhaps it is a problem with your understanding in English.I am not saying that all past actions were correct, I am saying that you cannot know the principles behind them to judge by saying there was never any principled action taken..

      And as for your generation's knowledge: nobody has a corner on that.We need to be careful about thinking that we have learned something because learning never stops.

      However I do see your very good point about the futility of taking too much responsibility for the region.We are dealing with vastly different cultures.And...

      I don't think anybody really knows for sure what effect an air strike might have.

      firepigette

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  15. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Any country that has a Soviet Union era equipped military has chemical weapons. Chemical assault was a normal part of Soviet military strategy and every 4th artillery shell contained gas. That includes nearly every country in the Middle East. It also means that there are plenty of chemical shells floating around to be stolen or sold so it is hard to be sure who shot what at whom. The Syrian rebels, heavily infiltrated with Al-Quaeda jihadists, would love to have the USA on their side, and the result would probably be another Muslim Brotherhood government in Syria.

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  16. I supported intervention early on and continue to support it after these chemical attacks although it's almost impossible AT THIS POINT to salvage anything out of Syria that would ally itself with the west. So at a minimum, we need to strike in a severe and punitive way to degrade the regime's ability to deliver chemical weapons. And warn of complete regime destruction if they are used again.

    The politicization of this issue in the United States is disgusting.

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  17. It seems illogical for me that Assad would use Chemical weapons now when he is winning. News everywhere indicated that the Rebels were on the retreat and that in eight months to a year and four months Assad was going to win. Then all of a sudden while the UN chemical weapon inspectors are in the country a chemical attack takes place on a city that has been under siege for a long time, suffering starvation and lack of medical supplies for a year if not more.

    A bit too convenient for me. I'm more leaning to some Al-Quaeda splinter doing this as a means of gaining support for their losing war.

    This is a civil war, 35-40% of the population reject the opposition, and stand against them. Many of these are the Christian and Druze, along with the Alawites and other Shia sects. Even the Kurds which make up around 10-13% of the population of Syria, are hesitant to back the oppositionTo paint the opposition as some kind of benevolent, democracy loving faction is far from it. Some of these groups fighting against Assad have put Islamic law in areas they control, killing those that break it. Young women are sold to them to serve as prostitutes in some kind of perverted service to their crusade. It is for this reason that you will find most Syrians abroad supporting Assad (as they mostly come from the Christian minority especially the ones in Venezuela). There is too much blood shed, and any victory by the opposition will mean these minority groups will be dealt with harshly.

    While I was for intervention at the beginning, now I see Assad as the lesser of two evils. If the US gets involved in this war, it will be bad for them, and the Syrian people in my opinion. Beating the drums of war is naive in my opinion, even limited bombing which will only garner more support for Assad in my belief and do limited damage.

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    1. Nobody is saying in this thread that the Syrian opposition is a worthy cause. Though after half a century of oppression we seem to agree they have a point.

      Also the recent vas events were around Damascus. Not Podunkus.

      Delete
  18. Some thoughts based on my weak knowledge of the area's history and culture...

    I strongly condemn any state, let alone a rogue regime, that uses chemical or biological weaponry to kill any group of civilians-at-large.

    I suspect that Assad will not negotiate, nor can he ever be trusted. As such, I believe that intervention is the only possible way out of this mess. That intervention has to be shared. The US cannot be totally responsible, but proportionally, as it holds the bulk of the marbles, and already has forces in the region (in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan).

    Regarding the reactions from the US and the global community, I strongly condemn isolationism = heads-in-the-sand = passivity = do-nothings = excuse-mongers = cowards.

    Having said all that, I worry about the collateral damage of foreign intervention. And I wonder if drones can't apply a tweezer-like weapon against Assad's military and government heads, so that the civilian population remains relatively unscathed. (The emphasis is on 'relatively'; drones that kill sometimes go astray.)

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    1. Maybe a single hit to one of Assad hide outs to let him know that next time we will strike at ALL of his hide outs?

      Delete
    2. Yes, that would be a good idea, if only the hide-outs were known. Oh, I know, I know. Let's ask Julian Assh*lange, since he considers himself so clever at ferreting out compromising information and publishing it. No wait. I forgot. He only selectively accuses one country (U.S.), and therefore is a useless tool.

      Delete
  19. I re-read the piece by Robert Fisk Lemmy Caution mentions here. Fisk is not mental, even if here I think he was a wee bit too strong on one issue.

    I do not know where those "Assad hideouts" could be, but if they are located in places like where many strategic military centres are (not huge bases but some key areas), they are just surrounded by residential buildings with lots of children and women that the Syrian regime won't be relocating.

    Hm...I see Al Jazeera is not doing its homework: where is Venezuela?

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2013/08/201383111193558894.html

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    1. Notwithstanding Vzla's omission, it's a very clear graphic. I would suggest to Al Jazeera that the circle representing Vzla should be on the middle line, with the right half of its circle in brown and the left half in red. The legend for this circle would read: On the fence. Verbalizes opposition to the invasion, but heartily welcomes selling its oil to the US.

      Delete
  20. Anonymous8:23 AM

    I like to share this link, its something I have heared about also from syrian friends who are living in Vzla (Christians)
    http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/christians-other-minorities-in-syria-fear-ethnic-cleansing-1.236246

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  21. Here is what puzzled me, and I think many people feels the same: the hypocrisy, the double standard and the lies.

    And here is why.

    All the things that Obama mentioned for doing what he proposes in Syria are the same things that George W. Bush were struggling for. Obama and the democrats argued against, protested, criticized, obstructed and every other means to embarrass him, ignoring that they were hurting the country, just so they can have a chance to win the presidential race. They tried to bring about failure and defeat to Bush even if it meant failure and defeat for the country. They said the things he chose to do were all wrong and he (Obama) was smarter and his ideas were better. And they did it for political reasons. Now that they are in the same position that Bush was in they are facing the same problems and doing the same things to resolve the problems, only now because they and he are good liberals who are socialists, pro abortion and pro special rights for homosexuals he expects that everyone should go along with his hypocrisy.

    BTW, did you people see the reaction of George W. Bush about this whole thing, did he badmouthed Obama? At least Bush is classy and has some sense of decency and respect for authority that represents the Presidential Institution, because he used to be one. Something that can not be said from Obama.

    BTW to all you that are pro Syria Intervention, Is very easy to assume a staunch moralist position asking for the intervention of Syria from the comfort of your keyboard, at the expense of American and westerner lives, ignoring that these kind of things will make things worse, that global economy is barely recovering, and can not take another hit from the rise of the Oil. Let the Syrian people takes matter in their own hands.

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  22. Anonymous8:16 PM

    What makes me sooo angry - I send the link about the christians in Syria above - in Syria the "rebels/ opposition" are the ones Europe and America are fighting against in Iraque and Afganistan. Now in Syria its ok when they fight against the regime and kill a lot of ppl who are not in theire niche?
    It is a puvlerfass, a bomb that will explode into our face very soon. The whole middle east.

    Hans

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