Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Feel it Coming on Again Just Like It Did Before

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly passed an authorization to use military force against Assad's Syrian regime. A military foray against Syria has bipartisan support- funny how Congress can agree about blowing the crap out of Middle Easterners but they can't agree to a jobs bill for citizens of the United States (unless they work for military contractors).

While the Assad regime is brutal, the opposition is a multifarious assemblage of disparate groups, ranging from pacifists to Islamic fundamentalist jihadis. My biggest concern is that U.S. foreign policy won't take into account the complexity of the former Syrian society, and that the Sunni/Alawite, Turkish/Arab/Kurdish, Druze/Salafi, and the Just-About-Everybody/Armenian conflicts that threaten to boil over and scald the entire region. The simplistic approach to the Iraq invasion led to a decade of sectarian violence, a conflagration which will only be "fanned" by a poorly-executed attack on Syria.

As if that weren't enough, Russia opposes American intervention and Iran, while not keen on Assad's use of chemical weapons, stands in opposition to U.S. military intervention as well. Does the U.S. government really need to get into a proxy war with Russia and Iran (the true victor in Bush's Iraq War)?

The title of the post is derived from the Soft Boys' song I Wanna Destroy You, a song which parodied punk rock and, ironically, became a much covered punk anthem. Here's a 2001 rendition of the song by a reconstituted Soft Boys, which Robyn Hitchcock dedicated to Dubya:


12 comments:

Paul Avery said...

A good post...and sane. The Syrian situation, like the Libyan situation, the Egyptian situation...on and on, is the inevitable result of our vain propping up of a Cold War structure in a post-Cold War era. Global structures change, and our diplomacy must change as well. What is so tragically ironic and comical at the same time, is those who insist on maintaining an outdated diplomatic paradigm are regarded as "realists."

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Digby's post:

"All of this adds up to humanitarian war not being a particularly moral decisions except in a rather preening sense of self-regard and presumed nobility on the part of those who need to believe they alone have both the power and the will to "help". It's horrible to feel impotent in the face of violence so it's a natural impulse to feel that someone must step in and stop it. But modern warfare is so powerfully violent (and our attention span so short) that it is almost inevitable that military force will, at best, end up solving nothing. In fact, it almost always makes thing worse. "
~

Paul Avery said...

Where is Maj. Frank Burns with his bullhorn when we need him?
"Citizens of Syria, ignore the 1000 pounds tomahawk and cruise missiles exploding in your neighborhood. We are not making war on you. Repeat: This is not a war."

Paul Avery said...


On August 20, 2012, Obama seemed to say chemical weapons are a red line, but what did he mean?
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said a year ago last week. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
Not exactly a resounding call to arms, is it?

mikey said...

I'm pretty sure everybody here knows my opinion, so I won't beat that horse again.

But while the right-wing postition is predictably hypocritical, I've been a little disappointed by the incoherence or just plain dishonesty of much of the left wing position.

They shout over and over again that intervention in the Syrian Civil war is useless or counterproductive because there is no faction that can, or should win. I completely agree with that, and I frankly haven't seen any interest in intervening in the civil war itself. In fact, Obama has shown himself to be quite averse to political risk, so there seems to be very little likelihood he would order a US intervention designed to affect the outcome.

This entire discussion should be about the international response to the use of Chemical Weapons, particularly by an autocratic dictator against his own people. The larger questions are those around R2P, humanitarian intervention and genocide prevention.

I REALLY don't want to live in a world where these thugs decide there are no risks or consequence around using what is essentially human insecticide against rebelious or opposition populations. CW like Mustard and Nerve Gas is easy and cheap to make, and if there is no fear that the international community will take measures to deter its use, it will become a tremendously effective counterinsurgency/lethal crowd control measure. Despots will love it - depopulate the suburbs that are in the possession of the rebels without destroying them, then move in, burn the bodies and repopulate. What's not to love?

Again, I'm not for intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and I don't for a moment believe that Obama is either. There's nothing to be gained and a great deal to lose. But what about events like Srebrenica and Rwanda? Are we all better off because we stood down and did nothing? What did we gain from all our noble anti-war sentiment? For that matter, what about the 30,000 civilians, most of them women and children, still breathing today in Misrata? Would we be better humans if we had refused to launch those air attacks and those people were slaughtered?

I'll say it again - I just don't want to live in a world that thinks that Srebrenica or Rwanda or Hama or Halabja is the best we can do. Sometimes the right thing to do is to break things and hurt people, and there are thousands of people in Ghouta who deserve better than we're offering them.

Paul Avery said...

"This entire discussion should be about the international response to the use of Chemical Weapons, particularly by an autocratic dictator against his own people."
Agree with the first part, but I have reservations about the phrase "his own people." I'm sure you only meant it as a figure of speech, but I don't think it makes good policy to consider certain people being "owned."
But that notwithstanding, aren't you a bit curious why are presidents' creditability are always called into question when they DON'T make war? And moreover, why is it automatically assumed that those who are against military intervention are advocating "doing nothing"?

mikey said...

I am SO glad you asked that, Paul. Because that's exactly what I've been asking everybody I talk to - What SHOULD we - by us I mean the world, heavily armed advanced civilizations with the power to prevent these kinds of atrocities - be doing. I'm an old man, and a product of war, so maybe I'm not seeing it, but I can't get anybody to step up and give me an answer. If there is a way to deter the use of CW, genocide and mass murder that doesn't require breaking things and hurting people, I'd be happy to hear about it.

Note: "His own people" refers to the people the dictator rules. In an unelected single party autocratic government, he sort of DOES own them. As we've seen, he can move them around, take their land, bulldoze their homes and incarcerate and murder them in large numbers. That IS the problem we're really trying to solve here - where and how to draw a set of lines that let him know he's not going to be permitted to go further.

mikey said...

And moreover, why is it automatically assumed that those who are against military intervention are advocating "doing nothing"?

Mostly, to be frank, because they are doing precisely that - advocating doing nothing. If there are people advocating some kind of action that might be effective in deterring or limiting the use chemical weapons as a counterinsurgency methodology that falls short of killing the people who authorized the CW release and breaking things they care about, I honestly have not seen it...

Paul Avery said...

Many are advocating what I'm advocating: a recognition that Iran has a legitimate stake in the region. It's absurd to believe that it doesn't, but the US does. As I said before, the vain effort to prop us an outdated Cold War policy in the Middle East is an albatross around our neck in forming a common cause, if only a limited one, to put a collective pressure on the rogue dictators. To go in with guns ablazin' will is doing nothing but creating even more chaos and havoc. How can we expect to bring whoever ordered CW released to justice without killing an uncountable number innocent people. Andrew Sullivan was quite right in pointing out that we are not gods on Mt Olympus who can hurl lightening bolts with perfect precision and timing. Contemporary warfare is urban warfare in urbane areas which is, by the way where most people live.

Paul Avery said...

Please excuse first draft.
M
any are advocating what I'm advocating: a recognition that Iran has a legitimate stake in the region. It's absurd to believe that it doesn't. As I said before, the vain effort to maintain an outdated Cold War policy in the Middle East is an albatross around our neck in forming a common cause for Middle East stability, if only a limited one, to put a collective pressure and retaints on these rogue dictators. To go in with guns ablazin is doing nothing but creating even more chaos and havoc. How can we expect to bring whoever ordered CW released to justice without killing an uncountable number of innocent people. Andrew Sullivan was quite right in pointing out that we are not gods on Mt Olympus who can hurl lightening bolts with perfect precision and timing. Contemporary warfare is urban warfare in urban areas which is, by the way where most people live.

Paul Avery said...

"As we've seen, he can move them around, take their land, bulldoze their homes and incarcerate and murder them in large numbers."
So Israel owns the Palestinians?

James Buchanan said...

I believe everyone missed the big picture. No i am not for war with Syria, but I am for war with the suppliers of the chemical weapons, and the countries that supplied the chemical arms to whoever used them.
Syria didn't know how to use them, as proved by the lame handling of the attack. So this was new to who ever used the weapon. A lack of training to me proves who it could not be the professional forces in Syria. Their manpower is professional to say the least. So this stuff is new to them, very new. So where did they get it?
It was several days ago, so I forget the source, the weapons were shipped thru Britain. Where from? by who? to who? Questions that were not awnsered by the article. And I've seen nothing more about it. So that would have been one of the main english papers or the online german news services. I keep going back, but no joy. Then i have read in the past that haliburton had access to those chemicals in the past, and one of the primaries in the company has come out in favor of invasion, and his picture keeps coming up...I wonder?