Sunday, September 1, 2013

On Syria and “doing something”


So over a year after the civil conflict in Syria began the Obama administration feels it must “use force” because a “red line has been crossed” and wants to engage in “limited surgical strikes”.

There isn’t any question that Assad is awful, that millions of people are suffering, directly and indirectly. But the situation in Syria is a civil war, and in the history of the world civil wars are ugly, and they ultimately have to be determined by the people themselves, not decided by outside forces who have little knowledge or interest. Even if the Obama administration had a good grasp of the situation, which is questionable, it is quite likely bombing will likely have little effect, except to make things worse. It could actually strengthen the Assad regime-as no middle east country supports it, and may actually make things harder for the opposition forces. And than there are those opposition forces themselves, a mix of Syrian nationalists, Islamic radicals, and at least a few Al Queda people, fueled by money from the Gulf states. There are substantial minority populations, Christians among them, who genuinely fear what may occur if Assad is gone.

As pointed out in this excellent summary the Obama administration does not have any real plans to limit the use of chemical weapons-which of course we have turned a blind eye to before, see the Iran-Iraq war, Fullujah, and doesn't even necessarily want to get rid of Assad. Also on the use of chemical weapons there is evidence that US intelligence knew beforehand the possibility of an attack, and made no attempt to warn the revolutionary forces.  

As people ask, is there anything else we can do beside bomb, there is little coverage to the point-covered in the previously cited post-that US has never taken diplomacy seriously. This is in large part because it refuses to acknowledge Iran. The media has given little, if any, coverage to the idea that in fact diplomacy might have a shot if the Obama administration really got down to it, engaged ALL the regional players (not just the ones they like), and insisted they come up with something. The Obama administration could also commit to increased support for refugees and support to countries such as Turkey and Jordan who are supporting refugees and have suffered affects of the war. For a non-American power centered perspective this interview with Noam Chomsky by a Syrian, on Syria is worth a read. (Note the interview is in June, and may predate the Obama administration's decision to support the rebels). 

Although the language is of "limited strikes" the AUMF as written clearly allows for expansion. While twitter was split yesterday between monarchists who felt it was offensive that the president had to "ask" for the military action, and others who were happy he did so, there was less focus on why the president did so. It would appear the most likely reason the president did was so if and when he calls for bombing Iran, the support is there.  

In short, bombing Syria really has no other purpose than to achieve certain American objectives that will not help the Syrian people, and probably strengthen the worst elements of the opposition. It should not be supported. 
The Green Party Shadow Cabinet has issued a statement against military intervention.

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