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tequila
03-25-2011, 04:33 PM
Moderator's Note: On 5th June 2012 this thread's title was changed from 'Uprising in Syria now?' to 'Syria: a civil war'.


I'm sure we've all heard about the shootings of protesters in Deraa yesterday. Apparently more shooting has gone on today (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/25/syria.unrest/), with more protesters killed, combined with announcements of tentative reforms (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12855058).

Obviously the sectarian underbelly of Syrian politics has been rearing its ugly head, with anti-Alawite chants in Deraa and supposedly Alawites changing their Facebook profiles to Bashar Assad's face.

The regime appears caught on the horns of a dilemma again regarding violence against protesters. Killing 20 or so people in Deraa has not deterred thousands more from turning out. Gunfire appears to be the order of the day again today - will this only spark more protests?

JMA
03-31-2011, 12:18 AM
Syria: Assad speech offers little new (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12915461)

I guess it could be said that Assad had his chance to make the necessary political changes but he blew it.

This reminded me of what happened in South Africa in 1985 with President P. W. Botha's infamous Rubicon Speech (http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/chronology/thisday/1985-08-15.htm).

Additionally from Great expectations: Pres. PW Botha’s Rubicon speech of 1985 (http://newhistory.co.za/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Rubicon.pdf)


Spurning the expectations of bold reforms, Botha projected himself as the uncompromising leader of a white minority determined to fight to the end for its survival. The speech triggered a massive outflow of capital and intensified sanctions against South Africa. A line in Botha’s speech, “Today we have crossed the Rubicon”, promptly became the object of scorn and ridicule.

Perhaps Assad has given HIS Rubicon Speech and as such doomed his regime as a result?

jmm99
03-31-2011, 01:35 AM
Young Assad is a "reformer" - quoting Ms Clinton.

The question, of course, is whether he is as willing and as able, as his Old Man, to build new parking lots.

Regards

Mike

davidbfpo
03-31-2011, 07:52 AM
Syria cannot be compared to South Africa, as JMA suggested; there is very little external investment in the economy and whilst some might have informal sanctions as party to 'evil' that is nothing like the informal, formal and legal sanctions on South Africa.

There is a parallel in the lack of legitimacy, the use of a state of emergency (for fifty years in Syria) and I suspect an internal debate between repression and reform. What I found in South Africa amidst the police and securocrats before the Rubicon speech, way back in 1985, was a realisation that reform had to come and repression was only a temporary option.

Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.

JMA
03-31-2011, 10:10 AM
Syria cannot be compared to South Africa, as JMA suggested; there is very little external investment in the economy and whilst some might have informal sanctions as party to 'evil' that is nothing like the informal, formal and legal sanctions on South Africa.

There is a parallel in the lack of legitimacy, the use of a state of emergency (for fifty years in Syria) and I suspect an internal debate between repression and reform. What I found in South Africa amidst the police and securocrats before the Rubicon speech, way back in 1985, was a realisation that reform had to come and repression was only a temporary option.

Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.

"Crossing the Rubicon" as in passing a point of no return. A head of state clearly reading the internal and external mood badly wrong and thereby hastening and indeed ensuring the end of the regime. Lets sit back and see what happens now.

tequila
03-31-2011, 12:05 PM
I think perhaps the best analogy with South Africa is that both Botha and Assad presided over regimes whose base support was in a minority which dominated the military and security services and which was terrified of the consequences of releasing control. In Syria's case, unfortunately, there is no Mandela figure who exercises overarching moral control over a semi-unified opposition. Instead there is an inchoate and disparate opposition and thus no guarantee for the Alawites that they will not be purged from the country if the Assad regime falls.

Tukhachevskii
03-31-2011, 01:32 PM
Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.

Really? Not long ago people were saying the same thing about Ghaddafi. Syria isn't the same. What we "know" about what's going on in Syria is patchy and I think it's a little too early to be speculating about the fall of Assad Jr. Besides, he has the "backing" of Turkey and Lebanon (and Russia) both of which cannot afford a destabilsied Syria (not to mention Jordan). Whatever Assad does will be partly tempered by what happens to Ghaddfi; who's showing everyone what he's made of and thrown a spanner in the works in the process. In fact I think Libya will set an example to other states that the "Egyptian" or "Tunisian" models aren't exportable.

On a different note, I wonder how the Obama admuinistration feels about what, to my eyes at least, loks like the Bush doctrine (of spreading democracy) coming to fruition (albeit not in a manner Bush Jr. envisaged)?

JMA
03-31-2011, 04:58 PM
Really? Not long ago people were saying the same thing about Ghaddafi. Syria isn't the same. What we "know" about what's going on in Syria is patchy and I think it's a little too early to be speculating about the fall of Assad Jr. Besides, he has the "backing" of Turkey and Lebanon (and Russia) both of which cannot afford a destabilsied Syria (not to mention Jordan). Whatever Assad does will be partly tempered by what happens to Ghaddfi; who's showing everyone what he's made of and thrown a spanner in the works in the process. In fact I think Libya will set an example to other states that the "Egyptian" or "Tunisian" models aren't exportable.

On a different note, I wonder how the Obama admuinistration feels about what, to my eyes at least, loks like the Bush doctrine (of spreading democracy) coming to fruition (albeit not in a manner Bush Jr. envisaged)?

Surely you don't need a Harold MacMillan to educate you that there is a Wind of Change (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_of_Change_(speech)) blowing through the Arab world?

It may not take week, it may not take a month, or even a year or two but that wind is sure to blow through Syria as well. And the West should keep the fires burning there that the Wind of Change will fan.

jmm99
03-31-2011, 08:37 PM
Just a question ?

Regards

Mike

JMA
04-01-2011, 08:30 AM
Just a question ?

Regards

Mike

Good thinking, yes seems a lot like the "Springtime of the Peoples" in Europe in 1848.

... puts Europe about 150 years ahead on the curve... which is also probably correct.

Tukhachevskii
04-01-2011, 12:04 PM
Good thinking, yes seems a lot like the "Springtime of the Peoples" in Europe in 1848.

... puts Europe about 150 years ahead on the curve... which is also probably correct.

Why not include the peasant revolts of the middle ages? Or 1789? or 1968? Or even the Arab Revolt and the Young Turks (is this a punctuated equilibrium situation or the continuation of a century old process of Arab Nationalism that began with the Arab "revolts" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_nationalism) against the European powers and the Ottomans...in which case you could go back farther)? Are they, in fact, comparable phenomena either ontologically or causatively? I can't say, but apparently you have all the answers. I have a problem with universalising comparisons which imply an almost "whiggish" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whig_history) conception of the march of progress/reason/liberty. Sociologist Charles Tilly's classic but oft ignored book Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons (http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/51064/1/295.pdf) covers a lot of these concerns better than I could ever articulate them. He also has an excellent criticism of theories of revolution based upon J-Curve hypotheses.

davidbfpo
04-01-2011, 04:25 PM
A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:
Forget Libya. Washington should pay closer attention to the violent protests imperiling the Assad regime in Damascus. If there's one country where unrest could truly set the Middle East alight, it's Syria.

Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/28/the_syrian_timebomb

JMA
04-02-2011, 04:29 AM
Why not include the peasant revolts of the middle ages? Or 1789? or 1968? Or even the Arab Revolt and the Young Turks (is this a punctuated equilibrium situation or the continuation of a century old process of Arab Nationalism that began with the Arab "revolts" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_nationalism) against the European powers and the Ottomans...in which case you could go back farther)? Are they, in fact, comparable phenomena either ontologically or causatively? I can't say, but apparently you have all the answers. I have a problem with universalising comparisons which imply an almost "whiggish" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whig_history) conception of the march of progress/reason/liberty. Sociologist Charles Tilly's classic but oft ignored book Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons (http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/51064/1/295.pdf) covers a lot of these concerns better than I could ever articulate them. He also has an excellent criticism of theories of revolution based upon J-Curve hypotheses.

What touched a nerve here? Maybe that the Arabs are 150 years behind Europe on the political development, human freedom, etc etc curve? Relax... that is about to change.

JMA
04-02-2011, 04:43 AM
A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:

Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/28/the_syrian_timebomb

Seale makes the assertion that:


...the United States would be wise to spend a little less time thinking about Libya and a little more time thinking about a state that truly has implications on U.S. national interests.

Is he for real? Surely the US with its massive Department of State and CIA staffs with their various "desks" will be able to juggle a number of balls in the air at the same time?

But then Seale should realise that the key to the whole area is Iran. Even GWB could see that.

Seriously David, isn't this the problem of country specific "experts"? They tend to see their country of interest as the centre of the universe?

Tukhachevskii
04-02-2011, 11:38 AM
A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:

Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/28/the_syrian_timebomb

...we could also quote Michael Bruning, The Study House that Assad Built (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67561/michael-broening/the-sturdy-house-that-assad-built)...


It is true that Assad has even fewer enthusiastic supporters beyond his small group of co-opted elites than did former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but the regime’s opposition has even less popular support. Unlike other dictators in the region, Assad is seen by many as a counterweight to sectarian disintegration rather than as a champion of sectarian interests. Moreover, Syrians have had frequent and direct exposure to the devastating outcomes of sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon. In 2005 and 2006, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Iraqi refugees flowed into Damascus, reminding Syrians of the dire consequences of religiously fueled carnage. And seeing how sectarianism has stunted Lebanon and Iraq, Syria’s equally pluralist society has good reason to acquiesce to Assad’s leadership.

Moreover, Assad’s comparable youth (he is 45, Ben Ali is 74, Mubarak is 82, and Qaddafi is 68) and his record of staunch anti-Westernism give him a layer of protection that the other leaders did not enjoy. Many Syrians perceive his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and his anti-Israel policies as desirable and in the national interest. In fact, Assad’s reputation in the West as an unyielding pariah has translated into popularity in his own country. In a somewhat twisted way, his willingness to stand up to the United States comports with the theme of Arab dignity that has rallied protesters throughout the region. While a similar anti-Western stance was taken by Qaddafi, Syria’s geographical proximity to the Arab-Israeli conflict (and its direct involvement) has lent Assad’s rhetoric of resistance much greater credibility than Qaddafi’s, especially after Qaddafi improved relations with the United States in the 2000s.


or, as a counterpoint, Tony Burdans', Syria's Assad no longer in vogue (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/ARTICLES/67677/tony-badran/syrias-assad-no-longer-in-vogue?page=2)...


Other commentators who dismissed the likelihood of the Assad regime falling pointed to solidarity among the Alawite elite. Unlike the Egyptian army, which functioned independently of Mubarak and broke with him at a key moment, the Syrian brass, as part of a small religious minority, views its fate and safety as inextricably linked to Assad’s and therefore will not fail to crack down on protests.

Still, that threat has not deterred all the protesters. And on March 22, the sectarian dimension of the conflict became explicit: the Deraa demonstrators broke a long-standing taboo, chanting, “No to Iran, no to Hezbollah, we want a God-fearing Muslim” -- by which they meant, “We want a Sunni Muslim running the country.” In a show of solidarity with the regime, Alawites replaced their own headshots on Facebook with pictures of Bashar.

There were experts a plenty during the Cold War (many of whom failed to predict its end no less), and I can see you your Seale and raise you a Pipes, Fred Lawson, Nikolas van Dam, Rabinovotch, Batatu, Dawisha, Perthes, Lesch, Ziser, Moaz (&c). We could throw "experts" at each other till the cows come home.

JMA
04-03-2011, 05:23 PM
...we could also quote Michael Bruning, The Study House that Assad Built (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67561/michael-broening/the-sturdy-house-that-assad-built)...




or, as a counterpoint, Tony Burdans', Syria's Assad no longer in vogue (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/ARTICLES/67677/tony-badran/syrias-assad-no-longer-in-vogue?page=2)...



There were experts a plenty during the Cold War (many of whom failed to predict its end no less), and I can see you your Seale and raise you a Pipes, Fred Lawson, Nikolas van Dam, Rabinovotch, Batatu, Dawisha, Perthes, Lesch, Ziser, Moaz (&c). We could throw "experts" at each other till the cows come home.

OK, so that's what they (the so-called experts) think, now what do you think?

Tukhachevskii
04-04-2011, 12:52 PM
OK, so that's what they (the so-called experts) think, now what do you think?

1. I am not an expert (although I have studied and been taught by a lot of them.

2. My intitial appraisal of the situation based upon what information I have (which I have interpreted contectually based upon past study) is located in post #7 above. It's not detailed, certainly isn't predictive and I don't claim to have any priveleged insight with regards to Syria. Ultimately, we cannot say for certian what trajectory events will take other than events have their own way of altering the situation (how's that for an honourable mention of Macmillan ["event's, dear boy, events..."];)). Prior to Ghaddafi digging his heels in people thought that states in the MENA would fall like dominoes. Assad now knows that, with NATO embroiled in a war against the Lybian government (Ghadafi is, after all, still the leader in de facto if not de jure terms; legitimacy is a difficult metric to apply), that elements of international society (among them Russia who has strateguc/naval interests in Syria) as well as other states (such as Turkey which is a NATO member state and almost scuppered NATO's application iof airpower) will not sanction any further extension of the "Bush 2.0" doctrine (that's an attempt at humour by the way, not a polemical statement). With the international and regional balance of opinion tiliting in favour of stability (by any means) as oppsoed to "assisted regime change/state capture", which is essentially what NATO is doing, Asad knows he has to act carefully (they'll be no repeat of Hama (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre), nor need there be). Asad's may rule may be based upon the control of key posts by his fellow co-religionists but has has, since 2000, successully co-opted the Sunni elite/borgeoisie(sp?) many of whom will see their gains in the regime threatened and will stand aside or grumble but, I don't think, they'll "switch" sides. Asad is a shrewd as his father and, geopolitically, he has "friends". Importantly, Syria isn't economically important to Europe nor is it on Europe's doorstep which applys the brakes a little when it comes to prodding regional actors into action. Things are open ended, anyone may make a mistake, or events may take a turn for the worse but I am certain that things aren't as clear cut as statements/commentators that proclaim "Asad will fall" predict them to be.

JMA
04-05-2011, 07:17 AM
1. I am not an expert (although I have studied and been taught by a lot of them.

2. My intitial appraisal of the situation based upon what information I have...
[snipped]

Thank you for the detailed reply. Lets see how it all pans out there.

JMA
04-22-2011, 08:55 PM
75 killed in deadliest day of Syria uprising (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/04/22/501364/main20056431.shtml?tag=stack)


Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas Friday on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country, killing at least 75 people — including a young boy — in the bloodiest day of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime, Amnesty International said, citing local activists.

Remember the Sharpeville massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharpeville_massacre)in South Africa of 21 March 1960 that outraged the world? 69 killed and 180 injured/wounded.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/95/Sharpville-massacre.jpg

Time to raise this at the UNSC? I think so.

Rex Brynen
04-22-2011, 09:29 PM
Time to raise this at the UNSC? I think so.

I would be enormously happy to see the Asad regime toppled or held to account. However, I see little point raising it at the UNSC--unlike their abstentions on Libya, there's no chance that China or Russia would support any sort of action against Syria.

JMA
04-23-2011, 05:59 AM
I would be enormously happy to see the Asad regime toppled or held to account. However, I see little point raising it at the UNSC--unlike their abstentions on Libya, there's no chance that China or Russia would support any sort of action against Syria.

I merely suggest that the process be started in seeking resolutions condemning the Assad regime. If mere condemnation alone is all that is possible then that is a good first step. If one can start along the path to freezing assets, an arms embargo etc it will be better.

Interesting to see how BRIC countries, now BRICS, all on the UNSC vote and the position they take on Syria.

Good time to get in early with a strong demonstration of solidarity with the "suffering" people of Syria and let the BRICS countries show their hand.

jmm99
04-23-2011, 10:35 PM
of 1960 Sharpeville (covered by National Review to some extent) - and an intelligent conversation of several hours in 1965 with a SA U of Mich student (Capetown, Brit heritage) re: SA Race Relations (largely, I listened).

I find Sharpeville quite a bit distant from 2011 Syria (a materiality issue, not a relevancy issue); but that event may have made a distinct impression on you - depending on your age, proximity to it, etc.

In any event, here is what the UNSC did in 1960, Resolution 134 (1960) of 1 April 1960 (http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3b00f1893c.html) (the key "mandate"; love the date ;)):


4. Calls upon the Government of the Union of South Africa to initiate measures aimed at bringing about racial harmony based on equality in order to ensure that the present situation does not continue or recur, and to abandon its policies of apartheid and racial discrimination;

5. Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Government of the Union of South Africa, to make such arrangements as would adequately help in upholding the purposes and principles of the Charter and to report to the Security Council whenever necessary and appropriate.

Adopted at the 856th meeting by 9 votes to none, with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

Is this what you want the UN to do ?

Regards

Mike

JMA
04-24-2011, 06:19 AM
of 1960 Sharpeville (covered by National Review to some extent) - and an intelligent conversation of several hours in 1965 with a SA U of Mich student (Capetown, Brit heritage) re: SA Race Relations (largely, I listened).

I find Sharpeville quite a bit distant from 2011 Syria (a materiality issue, not a relevancy issue); but that event may have made a distinct impression on you - depending on your age, proximity to it, etc.

In any event, here is what the UNSC did in 1960,

I see a real similarity between the two where a regime killed a number of its citizens who were involved in a non-violent protest action.

The numbers are significant say compared to the four at Kent State and the furore that followed that.

I merely suggest that a motion of condemnation be attempted through the UNSC.

I further suggest that 22 April will probably become a day that will remembered in the history of Syria as being the turning point in their struggle for democratic and human rights and marked as a public holiday.

jmm99
04-24-2011, 06:51 AM
the vote on a Resolution to "Condemn" (cf., Res. 134) - and the "play by play" from our President and Secretary of State. Why they elect to do that is beyond me - trying to get ahead of the story, I suppose.

Kent State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings) (killing four students and wounding nine others) and Jackson State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_State_killings) (killing two students and injuring twelve) were relatively small in numbers.

In materiality, they were huge. We had started to kill each other. We had to stop that, regardless of fault. The 1970s were a very dicey period in our (US) history - in a real sense, a period of some insanity until matters evened out somewhat in the 1980s.

I've no crystal ball on this Arab World "1848" - the Euro 1848 did not lead to immediate change (but built in a long-term "IED" which blew during WWI). I notice that Pat Cockburn is predicting that the Arab rebels (at least in some places) are in for a thrashing, Patrick Cockburn: The regimes are rallying their forces. Is the tide turning against Arab freedom? (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-the-regimes-are-rallying-their-forces-is-the-tide-turning-against-arab-freedom-2272617.html).

I haven't the foggiest.

Regards

Mike

JMA
04-24-2011, 07:53 AM
the vote on a Resolution to "Condemn" (cf., Res. 134) - and the "play by play" from our President and Secretary of State. Why they elect to do that is beyond me - trying to get ahead of the story, I suppose.

Better coming from Europe I suggest, best from Germany.

Knowing the reticence of the US to even appear to confront Russia who is an ally of the Syrian regime not holding my breath on any action from that side.


Kent State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings) (killing four students and wounding nine others) and Jackson State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_State_killings) (killing two students and injuring twelve) were relatively small in numbers.

In materiality, they were huge. We had started to kill each other. We had to stop that, regardless of fault. The 1970s were a very dicey period in our (US) history - in a real sense, a period of some insanity until matters evened out somewhat in the 1980s.

The same situation has developed in the "Arab World" (they are killing each other) and maybe the people on the receiving end need a little help?

I sincerely hope they will not be left in the lurch like the people of Hungary 1956 were.


I've no crystal ball on this Arab World "1848" - the Euro 1848 did not lead to immediate change (but built in a long-term "IED" which blew during WWI). I notice that Pat Cockburn is predicting that the Arab rebels (at least in some places) are in for a thrashing, Patrick Cockburn: The regimes are rallying their forces. Is the tide turning against Arab freedom? (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-the-regimes-are-rallying-their-forces-is-the-tide-turning-against-arab-freedom-2272617.html).

I haven't the foggiest.

Regards

Mike

I suggest that the defeat of these Arab regimes by the people is indeed inevitable.

From Sharpeville to 1994 elections took 34 years. In Hungary from betrayal to eventual freedom took 33 years. The easy ones (Tunisia, Egypt) are done (well the first phase that is). From now on it will be increasingly difficult... and these people will need help. By being seen to help Arabs in a country which does not have oil will be good PR ;)

As the US seems intent to sit on its hands I truly believe that the Brits must pull their forces out of America's war in Afghanistan and position (what they can) in the Mediterranean and prepare to assist the Arab and later the African peoples free themselves. Same applies to the French.

Dayuhan
04-24-2011, 08:54 AM
Better coming from Europe I suggest, best from Germany.

Knowing the reticence of the US to even appear to confront Russia who is an ally of the Syrian regime not holding my breath on any action from that side.

Can't see how it would have anything to do with Russia, but I can see why the US wouldn't want to be seen to be doing hatchet work for the Israelis, which is how any US move against Syria would look. Better to see it initiated by Europe, far better still from the Muslim world or at least somewhere outside the Old Colonists Club.


I sincerely hope they will not be left in the lurch like the people of Hungary 1956 were.

Since you like ranting about nations having blood on their hands, why not tell us how much blood the US would have on our hands if we'd gone to war with the Soviets in Europe? A rough estimate will do.

Nobody got "betrayed" in Hungary, or in Libya. You can't betray someone to whom you have no responsibility.

JMA
04-26-2011, 07:19 PM
... the UNSC is working out a resolution on Syria. 300-400 already dead but not to expect any quick action from the UNSC.

I would (if I were the US president ;)) give the Russians until the end of the month to reign in the Syrian regime or will offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.

The momentum is building nicely...

Tukhachevskii
04-27-2011, 09:30 AM
... the UNSC is working out a resolution on Syria. 300-400 already dead but not to expect any quick action from the UNSC.

I would (if I were the US president ;)) give the Russians until the end of the month to reign in the Syrian regime or will offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.

The momentum is building nicely...

If you were President of any country I would be afraid, very afraid.:D


Momentum? For what? Do you really think the Russians are going to take pointers (let alone orders) from the Yanks? Do you really think the Russians will get overflight rights from the Turks or the Georgians? Since when do te Russians care about protecting anyone else? They're old school as I am and don't see the point in intervention (humantiarian or otherwise unless absolutely necessary to maintain global/regional order a la Burke; they and I are adherents of Luttwak on that point, just see Libya).OTOH, in your world (which, IMO, is a completely different dimension) who would protect the Syrians from the Russian attempts to protect them?! (insert approproate emoticon)

JMA
04-27-2011, 10:32 AM
Momentum? For what? Do you really think the Russians are going to take pointers (let alone orders) from the Yanks? Do you really think the Russians will get overflight rights from the Turks or the Georgians? Since when do te Russians care about protecting anyone else? They're old school as I am and don't see the point in intervention (humantiarian or otherwise unless absolutely necessary to maintain global/regional order a la Burke; they and I are adherents of Luttwak on that point, just see Libya).OTOH, in your world (which, IMO, is a completely different dimension) who would protect the Syrians from the Russian attempts to protect them?! (insert approproate emoticon)

Momentum for a revolution and the ouster of the regime.

Remember the option you did not see as likely:


... but I am certain that things aren't as clear cut as statements/commentators that proclaim "Asad will fall" predict them to be.

Maybe you want to reassess your position on Syria?

You misinterpret my statement (seems to happen often and I use misinterpret as opposed to misrepresent).

What did you think I meant by the Russians reigning in the regime in a few days (by the end of the month)? Was it not obvious that given the time frame I was suggesting political and diplomatic pressure? Now why did you jump to the conclusion that I was suggesting the Russians should intervene militarily in Syria?

So what the West should do (not holding my breath on the US doing much) is to say to the Syrian people - "how can we help you free yourself from the death-grip of this brutal regime?" - and see what comes out and be prepare to act.

Keep all the options open and one can always say to the Russians - "you had your chance to contribute, but you blew it."

With regard to Luttwak what he explains as THE EASY AND RELIABLE WAY OF DEFEATING ALL INSURGENCIES EVERYWHERE as the last section of this article (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081384) is correct. But who has the will to do this? Who will be willing to out-terrorize the insurgents?

Mugabe, Sri Lanka, Gaddafi, China, etc etc but it is not an option for any western democracy. In Rhodesia we knew this as "the African Way" but it was not an option there either.

So if it is not an option what is the next best other option? This pop-centric crap they are trying in Afghanistan? Or what?

AdamG
04-27-2011, 03:29 PM
Some soldiers reportedly refused to open fire against civilians in Deraa today, sparking clashes between units. A divided military could prove the undoing of Assad's regime.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0425/Syria-s-military-shows-signs-of-division-amid-crackdown

JMA
04-28-2011, 06:36 AM
... as anticipated (by me anyway) Russia blocked any UNSC condemnation of the Syrian regime.

Push in U.N. for Criticism of Syria Is Rejected (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/world/middleeast/28nations.html?partner=rss&emc=rss)

Watch the BRICS nations as they start acting as a "block".

What to do now? More sanctions and this:

UNHRC to hold special Syria session Friday (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=218167)


“The international community has been shocked by the killing of hundreds of civilians in connection with peaceful political protests [in Syria] in the past week,” said US Ambassador to the UNHRC, Eileen Donahoe, on Wednesday.

Watch the voting on this one.

davidbfpo
04-28-2011, 11:14 AM
We are aware that one of Gadafy's two active brigades is commanded by a son, so accordint to this is the brigade in Deraa:
Bashar has decided that Deraa is the epicentre of the revolt and so has deployed the military.

Not any military, but the 4th Armoured Division commanded by his brother Maher.

From:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2011/04/28/Syria-Flicking-the-switch-to-repression.aspx

So Adam G's previous post about dissent @ Deraa is even more interesting.

From the very limited, private film clips available and from my armchair I always wonder why heavy armour is preferred, not APCs and infantry. Nor am I impressed when the tank commander looses off a few shots from his heavy calibre MG, shots that will hit something.

AdamG
04-28-2011, 11:44 AM
If you liked that, you'll love this -


Some 200 members of Syria's ruling Baath party are reported to have resigned over the violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrations.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13219853
see also
http://www.economist.com/node/18621246?story_id=18621246&fsrc=rss

Rex Brynen
04-28-2011, 02:56 PM
We are aware that one of Gadafy's two active brigades is commanded by a son, so accordint to this is the brigade in Deraa:


While Maher has certainly been present at Darʿa and may have assumed command responsibilities (after all, who says no to an Asad?) he isn't the regular commander of the 4th AD, but rather commander of the Presidential Guard.

Tukhachevskii
04-28-2011, 06:49 PM
Maybe you want to reassess your position on Syria?

Yep, but only this bit;

Asad knows he has to act carefully (they'll be no repeat of Hama, nor need there be).

As for this...

You misinterpret my statement (seems to happen often and I use misinterpret as opposed to misrepresent).

I will not actually take the time and effort to reply to you with the courtesy I try to show most people I disagree with. But as you seem to have a "beef" with anyone who doesn't follow the JMA party line (whatever that may be) I can't see the point.

Out

Entropy
04-28-2011, 10:18 PM
I would (if I were the US president ;)) give the Russians until the end of the month to reign in the Syrian regime or will offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.


That begs the question - you'd give them to the end of the month...or what? What are you willing to trade or threaten to gain Russian compliance? What will you do when Russia gives you the middle finger and tells you to mind your own business?

Dayuhan
04-29-2011, 03:35 AM
That begs the question - you'd give them to the end of the month...or what? What are you willing to trade or threaten to gain Russian compliance? What will you do when Russia gives you the middle finger and tells you to mind your own business?

I think the "or" was meant to be this:


or will offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.

Why that would worry the Russians is another question altogether: I'd guess they'd be perfectly happy to see the US taking on yet another messy intervention in the Middle East. I think they'd say "go for it", while laughing their backsides off.

JMA
04-29-2011, 05:30 AM
That begs the question - you'd give them to the end of the month...or what? What are you willing to trade or threaten to gain Russian compliance? What will you do when Russia gives you the middle finger and tells you to mind your own business?

If the Russians are unable to reign in the regime by month end then would (under that hypothetical that I was empowered to do so)


...offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.

Ask the people of Syria what help they need and then take it from there...

Yes, I know the US has a poor record of dealing with Russia so other than giving them the first chance of exerting their influence one would bypass them on this and in so doing realise that solving this matter through the UNSC will not be possible (through Russian veto).

The options are complex for the US given their current foreign policy weakness so one would probably be wise to look towards the EU to start the ball rolling.

JMA
04-29-2011, 05:42 AM
Why that would worry the Russians is another question altogether: I'd guess they'd be perfectly happy to see the US taking on yet another messy intervention in the Middle East. I think they'd say "go for it", while laughing their backsides off.

Not sure the Russians would. If the US and the EU handled Syria even slightly better than they did with Libya they could position themselves on the side of the people and their liberation from oppression and make sure Russia/China etc are seen to be on the side of the regime.

But sadly we are likely to see a cautious, hesitant, dithering approach again where leadership from the US will again be found wanting.

Entropy
04-29-2011, 01:02 PM
JMA,

Why would Russia take such a threat seriously? What makes you think the Syrian people want the "help" of the USA? Also, what makes you think Russia has the required influence with Syria? For Syria this is a matter of regime survival and "pressure" from outside governments isn't going to have much effect.

This is all academic of course since the American people won't support yet another major military intervention in yet another middle-east country.

JMA
04-29-2011, 10:01 PM
JMA,

Why would Russia take such a threat seriously? What makes you think the Syrian people want the "help" of the USA? Also, what makes you think Russia has the required influence with Syria? For Syria this is a matter of regime survival and "pressure" from outside governments isn't going to have much effect.

All one needs to do is put Russia on notice that the reaction to the internal situation in Syria (from the US (maybe) and the EU (more likely)) will be more than mere verbal condemnation and ineffective sanctions. Its not a threat (the US would never have the balls to threaten Russia) it just offered them a chance to act on the side of right. Neither Russia nor China could support action against regimes that crackdown on internal dissidents and commit human rights abuse against their citizens because that would rebound on them through their own actions.

You really need to be more astute in your observations. The young Syrians who take to the streets unarmed in protest seem to willingly and without fear risk death or wounding from the regime's trigger happy military forces. Day after day they take to the streets and offer themselves as targets. There is a very powerful revolution taking place in Syria right now (and please don't you ask what momentum is building in this regard as well).

But yes the US will dither as the spin doctors try to figure out how to choose a course of action where the US will appear to be all things to all men (which is impossible as they should have learned from Libya). This hesitancy, vacillation and indecision is to be expected against the background of the recent pronouncements of Russia - Russia warns against interference in Syria (http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/04/28/49589323.html)


This is all academic of course since the American people won't support yet another major military intervention in yet another middle-east country.

Ah.. another who speaks with authority on behalf of all the people of the US.

Iraq and Afghanistan, it is true, have been badly managed and should have either never happened or been wrapped up long ago. You can't be talking about Libya as it is hardly "yet another major military intervention" is it. But in the case of Libya had Obama gone for a quick effective intervention that would have been all over (from the US military involvement point of view) by now and on the list of concerns. One of the costs of indecisive command and leadership is that these poorly implemented interventions will tend to stack up in the "incomplete" column and have a negative impact on current operational possibilities.

Now the potential spinoff benefit of this whole Syrian revolution is that it may spread to Iran. That would be the great prize and the US and the EU should help that process along as much as they can.

Dayuhan
04-30-2011, 11:50 PM
All one needs to do is put Russia on notice that the reaction to the internal situation in Syria (from the US (maybe) and the EU (more likely)) will be more than mere verbal condemnation and ineffective sanctions.

But it won't be... certainly not from the EU (more likely?? Surely you jest...) and not likely from the US either. The Russians know it and so do we, so what's the point of blustering about it?


Its not a threat (the US would never have the balls to threaten Russia) it just offered them a chance to act on the side of right.

Why would the US want to threaten Russia, especially over a matter that doesn't even involve Russia? What would be the point? Or are we supposed to threaten people on a regular basis, on general principles, just for practice, or because we can?


But yes the US will dither as the spin doctors try to figure out how to choose a course of action where the US will appear to be all things to all men (which is impossible as they should have learned from Libya). This hesitancy, vacillation and indecision is to be expected against the background of the recent pronouncements of Russia - Russia warns against interference in Syria (http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/04/28/49589323.html)

I can't see how Russia, or anything Russia said, would have anything to do with it at all. Even were the bear as meek as a sea slug, the US and EU would still want nothing to do with this one.

There are few things easier than advocating reckless, high-risk intervention from the safety of a remote armchair like yours or mine. After all, our opinions have no consequences, and neither do our decisions. Those who make policy haven't that luxury.


Ah.. another who speaks with authority on behalf of all the people of the US.

It's a reasonable conclusion, and I think anyone who's been paying attention to US public opinion would agree with it.


But in the case of Libya had Obama gone for a quick effective intervention that would have been all over (from the US military involvement point of view) by now and on the list of concerns. One of the costs of indecisive command and leadership is that these poorly implemented interventions will tend to stack up in the "incomplete" column and have a negative impact on current operational possibilities.

Again, your opinion.

Quick effective intervention can remove a government. Removing a government doesn't mean anything is "all over". Unfortunately, whoever removes the government is generally held responsible for managing what comes after. Removing a government isn't where the problems end, it's where they start... and while it's all very well to speak of leaving things for the locals to sort out their way, weren't you recently advocating intervention in the Ivory Coast precisely to prevent the locals from sorting things out their way?


Now the potential spinoff benefit of this whole Syrian revolution is that it may spread to Iran. That would be the great prize and the US and the EU should help that process along as much as they can.

Meaning that if we get sucked into Syria we may have the opportunity to get sucked into Iran as well? What a wonderful pleasure that would be... I can think of few better arguments for staying out.

Entropy
05-01-2011, 01:22 AM
What Dayuhan said.

JMA
05-01-2011, 02:32 AM
But it won't be... certainly not from the EU (more likely?? Surely you jest...) and not likely from the US either. The Russians know it and so do we, so what's the point of blustering about it?

Why would the US want to threaten Russia, especially over a matter that doesn't even involve Russia? What would be the point? Or are we supposed to threaten people on a regular basis, on general principles, just for practice, or because we can?

I can't see how Russia, or anything Russia said, would have anything to do with it at all. Even were the bear as meek as a sea slug, the US and EU would still want nothing to do with this one.

There are few things easier than advocating reckless, high-risk intervention from the safety of a remote armchair like yours or mine. After all, our opinions have no consequences, and neither do our decisions. Those who make policy haven't that luxury.

It's a reasonable conclusion, and I think anyone who's been paying attention to US public opinion would agree with it.

Again, your opinion.

Quick effective intervention can remove a government. Removing a government doesn't mean anything is "all over". Unfortunately, whoever removes the government is generally held responsible for managing what comes after. Removing a government isn't where the problems end, it's where they start... and while it's all very well to speak of leaving things for the locals to sort out their way, weren't you recently advocating intervention in the Ivory Coast precisely to prevent the locals from sorting things out their way?

Meaning that if we get sucked into Syria we may have the opportunity to get sucked into Iran as well? What a wonderful pleasure that would be... I can think of few better arguments for staying out.

Lets sit back and watch how things develop shall we?

But I tend to agree with you that it is probably better for the US to surrender now and be done with it all. What a pathetic end to a once superpower.

Dayuhan
05-01-2011, 03:06 AM
To whom should we surrender?

Overextension is the graveyard of superpowers. Throughout history empires and powerful nations have crumbled because they pushed too much of their strength abroad, bled themselves dry in faraway conflicts with no bearing on their interests, bit off more than they could chew. Caution in overseas engagement, and refraining from action when one has no pressing need to act, are ways for great powers to survive, not the cause of their demise. Certainly the US has made its share of errors, more often in overaction than in underaction, but it's not too late to correct the course and adopt a posture more consistent with real-world capacities and interests.

JMA
05-01-2011, 04:17 AM
To whom should we surrender?

Anyone. Try Mexico.


Overextension is the graveyard of superpowers. Throughout history empires and powerful nations have crumbled because they pushed too much of their strength abroad, bled themselves dry in faraway conflicts with no bearing on their interests, bit off more than they could chew. Caution in overseas engagement, and refraining from action when one has no pressing need to act, are ways for great powers to survive, not the cause of their demise. Certainly the US has made its share of errors, more often in overaction than in underaction, but it's not too late to correct the course and adopt a posture more consistent with real-world capacities and interests.

No, that's the wrong spin.

I suggest that it has much more to do with a level of arrogance (by those subsequent generations who did not contribute anything but inherited what was built and created by others) which leads to bad policy, bad strategy, bad intervention planning and all the rest. Instead of learning from previous mistakes the US seems to make bigger and more costly mistakes in sync with their 4-8 year wild swings in foreign policy. Remember the quote about those who do not learn from history? Exactly.

Dayuhan
05-01-2011, 04:57 AM
No, that's the wrong spin.

I suggest that it has much more to do with a level of arrogance (by those subsequent generations who did not contribute anything but inherited what was built and created by others) which leads to bad policy, bad strategy, bad intervention planning and all the rest. Instead of learning from previous mistakes the US seems to make bigger and more costly mistakes in sync with their 4-8 year wild swings in foreign policy. Remember the quote about those who do not learn from history? Exactly.

You're welcome to your own spin (or we could just call them interpretations), but I fail to see how reluctance to intervene in place where we've no overpowering reason to intervene constitutes failure to learn the lessons of history... rather the opposite.

Like every other nation, the US makes its share of mistakes. Ours tend to be a bit more obvious, as we're bigger and more visible. I certainly have my own criticisms of US foreign policy, but all this rending of garments and melodramatic wailing about the passing of American power seems a bit over the top. Whatever Obama has done or failed to do, he has at least not committed the US to anything on the scale of Iraq or Afghanistan, and he has at least remained reasonably true to the policy he elucidated as a candidate. Long way from perfect but hardly disastrous.

If we don't go where you want us to go, that doesn't mean we haven't the courage, balls, or decisiveness to go there. It may just mean we don't see any point in going there and we don't want to go there. Not as if we've any obligation to cleanse the Augean stables of the world.

Entropy
05-01-2011, 05:08 AM
JMA,

Explain exactly how America benefits by threatening Russia over Syria and threatening to go to war with Syria as well? Either you think the threats will work or you think the US has the capability to make good on those threats if the bluffs are called. Either way there doesn't seem to be much in it for this American and yes, I think I do speak for the majority of my country on this subject.

One thing I've learned over the years is there is no satisfying America's foreign critics. Either we are ditherers who are afraid to use our muscle or we're bully's indiscriminately whacking whatever is in view. While we should always listen and consider good counsel we need to act in a way that is consistent with our interests and not what others would like our interests to be.

The US isn't the country you'd like it to be and I doubt it will ever meet your standards, no matter how much you may wish otherwise. Get used to disappointment.

JMA
05-01-2011, 03:24 PM
JMA,

Explain exactly how America benefits by threatening Russia over Syria and threatening to go to war with Syria as well? Either you think the threats will work or you think the US has the capability to make good on those threats if the bluffs are called. Either way there doesn't seem to be much in it for this American and yes, I think I do speak for the majority of my country on this subject.

One thing I've learned over the years is there is no satisfying America's foreign critics. Either we are ditherers who are afraid to use our muscle or we're bully's indiscriminately whacking whatever is in view. While we should always listen and consider good counsel we need to act in a way that is consistent with our interests and not what others would like our interests to be.

The US isn't the country you'd like it to be and I doubt it will ever meet your standards, no matter how much you may wish otherwise. Get used to disappointment.

OK, lets start again shall we.

I said:


I would (if I were the US president ) give the Russians until the end of the month to reign in the Syrian regime or will offer the people of Syria protection from the excesses of the regime.

Where is the threat there? I know the US would never threaten Russia (has not now has never had the bottle to do so).

Just letting them know that it would be nice if they can exert some pressure on the Syrian regime to stop the killing (all the while knowing that if they tried to the Syrians are too far down the line for turning).

Now why has Russia an interest in Syria? Google the ports of Latakia and Tartous and see what is planned there and while you are doing that look up the pending arms deal.

So that hypothetical is over so view the US and the EU should publicly and through private channels make contact with the Syrian opposition groups to see how they can help. Soft stuff now with the promise of weapons through Iraq later if they prefer.

OK so this the second time I have had to correct a misunderstanding of my position by you. Luckily I am a patient man...

Entropy
05-01-2011, 06:44 PM
JMA,

To begin, intervention in Syria to "protect" the people from their regime is a threat against Syria. The actions that you've described are an act of war against Syria.

Secondly, it is also a threat against Russia because you've promised an action that goes against Russia's interests and you've delivered that promise in the form of an ultimatum complete with a timetable and no quid pro quo. The message is: Comply with our wishes or we will intervene in Syria knowing full well your opposition to an intervention and knowing full well an intervention would materially damage your interests.

I'm not sure how that doesn't constitute a threat, but maybe you can explain. Furthermore, your belief that your statement does not constitute a threat doesn't mean the Russian's will interpret it the same way as you. They would likely see it for what it appears to be - an ultimatum which will bring negative consequences for Russia should Russia fail to comply with US demands.

Of course, this is all assuming that Russia actually has the requisite influence to change Syrian behavior, which is not at all a sound assumption. Assad wants, first and foremost, to stay in power. What does Russia have to offer that could possibly convince Assad to either leave or...what exactly? Can Russia really pressure Assad to take measures that would embolden the rebels and undermine his own power and authority? Not unless Assad has a suicide wish.

JMA
05-02-2011, 12:13 AM
JMA,

To begin, intervention in Syria to "protect" the people from their regime is a threat against Syria. The actions that you've described are an act of war against Syria.

Wow, now you have me worried.

Step one would be to judge the moment to withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Assad regime and declare solidarity with the people of Syria "in their struggle for freedom and democracy" (to use old terminology) and support them in this struggle (with any suitable means) against the now illegitimate regime.


Secondly, it is also a threat against Russia because you've promised an action that goes against Russia's interests and you've delivered that promise in the form of an ultimatum complete with a timetable and no quid pro quo. The message is: Comply with our wishes or we will intervene in Syria knowing full well your opposition to an intervention and knowing full well an intervention would materially damage your interests.

You could also tell the Russians to wipe their eyes in that you are not happy about them developing port facilities in the Mediterranean for their navy either.

The Russians know that unless Assad stays in power their plans for use of Syrian ports by their navy is as a good as dead. They find themselves in a similar position with Syria that the US found itself in with Egypt. They are not as smart as you give them credit for and are unlikely to have learned from the US error with Egypt and are likely to screw it up as well.

This offers the US and the EU an opportunity to help an Arab country which does not have significant oil out of humanitarian solidarity and without a hidden agenda and at little cost.

Like the US have lost out in Egypt so the Russians will lose out in Syria. Time to move on.

Lamson719
05-02-2011, 12:31 AM
Hi,

I am new to this forum. I'm from London (non military.) I have interviewed a few people for SWJ (Iraq diplomats, Jim Willbanks)

I don't think this is the end for Assad, but it could be the beginning of the end.

While Russia and China are likely to be neutral or supportive, Syria's recent new ally Turkey are publicly uncomfortable with the crackdowns.

Add to that a large number of Baathist resignations, reports of troops disobeying orders (and troop vs. troop firefights apparently) combined with divisions at the high level of Assads inner circle and the ruling Alawite Shias, he is definitely in trouble.

The problem is, the military seem so far extremely loyal- like Gaddafi he appears to have skilfully organised and deployed them to avoid a coup. (there were many coups in Syria from the 50's to the 60's. If I remember rightly Jeremy Bowen counted 12 in the 1950's alone.)

Likewise, I don't see how much more sanctions can hurt a regime that's suffering economically quite badly already.

While we can fund opposition (and the good news is there is a strong non salafi element, like in Libya and Egypt) there is not much we can do apart from sanction, fund, watch and hope.

Ironically, I think it is these secular tyrants who have facilitated the secular, facebook organised opposition to their rule.

It would be damn good to see Assad go down. The challenge is that the west rise to the Arab spring- like in Libya and Egypt, that will involve a distinct outreach campaign, to bravely say, "this is a clean slate. Let's drink a (non alcoholic) toast to the future." Now is not the time to fear Islam.

If we get this right, this could be the end of Arab Nationalism AND Al Qaida...


In the meantime, lets hope Iraq's border with Syria is kept as tightly shut as possible.

Entropy
05-02-2011, 01:30 AM
Step one would be to judge the moment to withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Assad regime and declare solidarity with the people of Syria "in their struggle for freedom and democracy" (to use old terminology) and support them in this struggle (with any suitable means) against the now illegitimate regime.


First it was "offer the people of Syria protection" and now it's this. Let's cut to the chase instead of this semantic pussy-footing: Along the continuum of possible action from diplomacy to a full-on invasion of Syria, what, in your opinion, should be the upper limit for action by the US in supporting the "people" of Syria? Please be precise.



You could also tell the Russians to wipe their eyes in that you are not happy about them developing port facilities in the Mediterranean for their navy either.

Who cares? The Russian/Soviet Navy have used Syrian ports for decades. What exactly are we worried about? Have you looked at the Russian OPTEMPO generally and in the med specifically as well as the material condition of the Russian Navy lately?


The Russians know that unless Assad stays in power their plans for use of Syrian ports by their navy is as a good as dead.

Yes, which is why your ultimatum to the Russians won't work....


This offers the US and the EU an opportunity to help an Arab country which does not have significant oil out of humanitarian solidarity and without a hidden agenda and at little cost.

Little cost? That all depends on how you answer my first question in this comment. If all you're willing to do is withdraw recognition of Syria and other diplomatic actions then the cost might indeed be "little." If you plan on doing what you originally suggested - "protecting" the people of Syria - then the costs won't be so little.

Dayuhan
05-02-2011, 02:31 AM
Step one would be to judge the moment to withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Assad regime and declare solidarity with the people of Syria "in their struggle for freedom and democracy" (to use old terminology) and support them in this struggle (with any suitable means) against the now illegitimate regime.

What about "the people" who aren't protesting, many of whom are likely to take a very dim view of US intervention in their country. US opposition to a government in the Middle East is often seen as conferring legitimacy on that government: it enables that government to portray itself as a nationalist force resisting greedy self-serving Israeli-manipulated US imperialists. We may think that narrative is silly, but it has traction in a lot of places.

"The people" vs "the government" is almost always a vast oversimplification.


You could also tell the Russians to wipe their eyes in that you are not happy about them developing port facilities in the Mediterranean for their navy either.

Who cares? The Russians have as much right to use Mediterranean ports as the US does.


Like the US have lost out in Egypt so the Russians will lose out in Syria. Time to move on.

Who says the US "lost out in Egypt"?

The notion that the US doesn't threaten the Russian because we haven't balls or bottle seems downright bizarre... why should we have any interest in threatening the Russians in the first place? They aren't an enemy or a threat, just another country with interests that sometimes diverge from ours. Threats are very rarely a useful method of conducting foreign relations, and refraining from threats is more about presence of common sense than absence of testicles.

jcustis
06-18-2011, 10:14 PM
I'm a bit perplexed over the goings-on in Syria. Assad is supporting by the Shiite minority, but has been putting down a number of protests and open fighting through substantial force.

Is his military predominantly Shiite as well? If not, then any clues as to why Egypt changed so quietly compared to the northern neighbor?

The lack of independent reporting coming out of Syria is frustrating, as I haven't really had the time to dig deeply enough to find the nuggets that no doubt exist, but what is Assad telling his troops that is convincing them the protesters need to be handled at the end of a gun?

davidbfpo
06-18-2011, 10:28 PM
Jon,

This slightly dated summary or Q&A by the BBC may help:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13374395


How is Syria different from Egypt or Libya?

There are several factors that complicate the crisis in Syria.

Mr Assad enjoys strong support within many segments of Syrian society, mostly among minorities, the middle class and the business elite.

There are fears of a civil war if President Assad should fall. Syria is made up of a precarious mix of confessions - 75% Sunni; 10% Christian, 3% Druze and 3% Shia (mostly Alawite). Even among those who want to see serious reforms, many would prefer to give President Assad time to implement them.
Unlike in Egypt, there is no daylight between the army and the regime. The armed forces are overwhelmingly made up of Alawites, so they too are in a fight to maintain their power and privilege. While there have been reports of low-level defections, the military command appears solid.

To which I would add the regime is ruthless, to an extent we find hard to follow. This week I watched some footage of a protest being broken up, mainly by plain-clothed men armed with clubs and knives.

ganulv
06-19-2011, 04:56 AM
[W]hat is Assad telling his troops that is convincing them the protesters need to be handled at the end of a gun?I’m not an expert on the region but my understanding is that there may be two things going on. The first is an armed insurgency presumably organized along sectarian lines (i.e., they are Sunni) and the second is civil unrest in opposition to a corrupt and brutal bureaucracy. I would assume Assad—or more likely his brother (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_al-Assad)—is talking to his troops a lot about the former and much less about the latter.

Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that about 10% of the Syrian population is Kurdish (most of whom are Sunni).

While some people don’t care for his politics Robert Fisk (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/) has spent a long career on the ground in the region.

jcustis
06-20-2011, 06:24 AM
I think much of what I have difficulty reconciling are the measures taken against what appear to be protests. I guess even whispers and fears of a gun (and certainly true presence of one) are enough to make poor troops open fire.

ganulv
06-20-2011, 06:21 PM
I think much of what I have difficulty reconciling are the measures taken against what appear to be protests. I guess even whispers and fears of a gun (and certainly true presence of one) are enough to make poor troops open fire.
Given the conduct of Syrian troops in 1982 in Hama (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Hama_massacre) and during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon (http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,385120,00.html) I have to think poor troops are only part of the story. Last week the BBC ran an (unconfirmed, of course) report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13737141) that had the Syrian military involved in crop destruction.

I once heard someone (Aaron Sheenan-Dean (http://www.unf.edu/%7Easheehan/Welcome.html), I think, in regards to Confederate soldiers’ motivations during the waning portion of the Civil War) say words to the effect that when someone is convinced that the very existence of their society is in question then his or her conception of appropriate behavior tends to change drastically. There is justifiable reason to worry that a Damascus in 2012 without Assad might look something like Baghdad in 2006 without Saddam Hussein. I don’t think that justifies shooting into crowds of civilian protesters or that there aren’t other factors at work in such shootings but it is my guess that anxieties about that kind of scenario are very much on the minds of the members of the Syrian military right now.

AdamG
06-21-2011, 02:27 PM
Turkey has agreed that NATO can turn its airbase in Turkey into a base for ground operations into Syria. The country will become the main base in the area for the US-led military alliance’s ground forces.
http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/?sid=799355

davidbfpo
06-21-2011, 09:50 PM
I am sure there was a mention on BBC Radio 4 today that one option was the creation of a 'safe haven' across the Turkish-Syrian border. No-one sensible expects that today, simply as Syria will not agree.

As for grander schemes, as the previous post reported, they are IMHO rubbish. There is currently much diplomatic posturing, in the knowledge there are very few realistic options to curtail Syrian state action.

ganulv
06-25-2011, 06:09 PM
this globalpost piece (http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/110624/syria-protests-assad) is the closest to real coverage of the Syrian situation from inside the country I have seen so far.

JMA
06-26-2011, 05:10 AM
Turkey has agreed that NATO can turn its airbase in Turkey into a base for ground operations into Syria. The country will become the main base in the area for the US-led military alliance’s ground forces.

Has this been verified as accurate?

Rex Brynen
06-26-2011, 12:17 PM
I think much of what I have difficulty reconciling are the measures taken against what appear to be protests. I guess even whispers and fears of a gun (and certainly true presence of one) are enough to make poor troops open fire.

Exactly right--and there have also been quite a few cases of Syrian troops being fired upon. Consequently the Syrian reaction is an oscillating case of much-more-softly-than-Hama, and disorganized/fearful brutality.

On top of that, the regimes knows that 1) if it is too brutal, Sunni officers and personnel might start to defect, 2) if it isn't brutal enough, the protests spread.

davidbfpo
06-26-2011, 06:49 PM
An opinion piece, which is sub-titled:
The popular uprisings in the Arab world are a great disaster for a radical camp led by Syria-Iran and long indulged by media such as al-Jazeera. A great opportunity follows..

Particularly interesting the comments on Al-Jazeera.

Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/arab-revolutions-end-to-dogma

Rex Brynen
06-27-2011, 05:47 AM
Particularly interesting the comments on Al-Jazeera.

al-Jazeera is linked to Qatari foreign policy? I'm shocked, shocked! :D

davidbfpo
06-30-2011, 09:12 AM
Some insight from a British journalist and former politician, Matthew Parris, best known as a parliamentary and social sketch writer; which opens with:
..my own bent has been to ask if revolts in North Africa and now Syria are really just cries of despair from an increasingly educated and in-touch generation of (mostly) young and (often) unemployed Arab men, at the failure of their prospects to keep pace with their hopes — it being easiest to blame the despotism or dysfunction of their governments for what is at root economic failure.


..they feel humiliated for their countrymen and country, in the face of a police state so unlikeable that even its beneficiaries (he says) cannot like it.

He adds that to Arabs he knows, the sight of Arab blood being spilt at the hands of other Arabs is very shameful; and victimhood, even by proxy, has helped fuel indignation. There is also (he says) something ‘attractive’ (his word) to some of his students in the picture of young Arab men standing up to authority and force: heroism alone, almost regardless of cause...

Yes, based on one persons's first-hand knowledge of one group of youths in Syria.

Link:http://www.spectator.co.uk/columnists/all/7045163/whose-revolution-is-it-anyway.thtml

davidbfpo
06-30-2011, 11:17 AM
An IISS Strategic Comment, which ends with:
Meanwhile, the protest movement continues to gain momentum inside Syria, with nothing but the president's departure now likely to satisfy the opposition. With dissent within his country now too widespread for Assad to ignore, some analysts are hoping Syria's fast-degenerating economy will also prove a fatal weakness. In this context, the fact that protests have finally reached the country's second city and commercial hub, Aleppo, may be particularly significant. And how things now play out in Syria depends on whether Assad and his officials meeting growing dissent with ever-repressive force – or blink.

Link:http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-17-2011/june/making-sense-of-syria/

Following one link I found 'Syria Comment' a blogsite for a US academic on Syria:http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/

davidbfpo
07-09-2011, 06:45 PM
Perhaps the most important development, however, was in Syria. In Damascus, we saw large protests in the center of the city, and security fired on the crowds, a sure sign that even the capital is starting to turn against the regime, slowly but steadily.

(My emphasis) In Hama, US Ambassador Robert Ford was described by the Syrian Interior Minister as meeting "with saboteurs in Hama ... who erected checkpoints, cut traffic and prevented citizens from going to work." However, he got a hero's welcome, and nearly 500,000 people peacefully took to the streets with few incidents of security cracking down on the city.

Taken from:http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2011/7/8/syria-egypt-and-beyond-liveblog-protest-friday.html

Alas no sourcs cited and a search found several sources.

Al-Jazeera has a very short report:http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/syria-jul-8-2011-2238

There is a NYT report with some more detail:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/world/middleeast/09syria.html

A DoS spokesperson added:
Ms. Nuland confirmed that Mr. Ford drove through the city center on Friday but decided not to stay so as “not to become the story himself” and left before the protests got under way.


Blake Hounshell, the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, observed: The more I think about it, the more extraordinary Ford’s visit to Hama is. When was the last time a U.S. ambassador did something so bold?

Link, with YouTube clip:http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/u-s-ambassador-greeted-with-roses-by-syrian-protesters/

Note the French Ambassador was there too, apparently not a coordinated visit.

Jedburgh
07-14-2011, 12:35 PM
ICG, 6 Jul 11: Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (VI): The Syrian People’s Slow-motion Revolution (http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iraq%20Syria%20Lebanon/Syria/108-%20Popular%20Protest%20in%20North%20Africa%20and%2 0the%20Middle%20East%20VI%20-%20The%20Syrian%20Peoples%20Slow-motion%20Revolution.pdf)

The Syrian uprising has defied conventional expectations and patterns established elsewhere in the region from the outset. It happened, first of all, and to many that in itself was surprising enough. The regime was not alone in believing in a form of Syrian exceptionalism that would shield it from serious popular unrest. Once the uprising began, it did not develop quickly, as in Egypt or Tunisia. Although it did not remain peaceful, it did not descend into a violent civil war, as in Libya, or sectarian affair, as in Bahrain. To this day, the outcome remains in doubt. Demonstrations have been growing in impressive fashion but have yet to attain critical mass. Regime support has been declining as the security services’ brutality has intensified, but many constituents still prefer the status quo to an uncertain and potentially chaotic future. What is clear, however, is the degree to which a wide array of social groups, many once pillars of the regime, have turned against it and how relations between state and society have been forever altered....
ICG, 13 Jul 11: Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (VII): The Syrian Regime’s Slow-motion Suicide (http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iraq%20Syria%20Lebanon/Syria/109%20Popular%20Protest%20in%20North%20Africa%20an d%20the%20Middle%20East%20VII%20--%20The%20Syrian%20Regimes%20Slow-motion%20Suicide.pdf)

Desperate to survive at all costs, Syria’s regime appears to be digging its grave. It did not have to be so. The protest movement is strong and getting stronger but yet to reach critical mass. Unlike toppled Arab leaders, President Bashar Assad enjoyed some genuine popularity. Many Syrians dread chaos and their nation’s fragmentation. But whatever opportunity the regime once possessed is being jeopardised by its actions. Brutal repression has overshadowed belated, half-hearted reform suggestions; Bashar has squandered credibility; his regime has lost much of the legitimacy derived from its foreign policy. The international community, largely from fear of the alternative to the status quo, waits and watches, eschewing for now direct involvement. That is the right policy, as there is little to gain and much to lose from a more interventionist approach, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The Syrian people have proved remarkably resistant to sectarian or divisive tendencies, defying regime prophecies of confessional strife and Islamisation. That does not guarantee a stable, democratic future. But is a good start that deserves recognition and support....

Bill Moore
08-15-2011, 08:13 AM
The Syrian regime is killing more and more of their civilians and ignoring global protests towards their crimes against humanity, and our Secretary of State suggests economic sanctions? Maybe it is just me, but why do we always resort to this stale and ineffective tactic? Sanctions historically have almost always resulted in strengthening the regime being targeted and hurting their citizens. It also tends to strengthen the will of those being sanctioned. One would think that our diplomats could come up with more creative responses short of military options other than sanctions. Sanctions didn't remove Saddam, Castro, or anyone else from power that I'm aware of, nor did it influence their behavior in ways that supported our national interests. It seems to be that we feel compelled to do something, and since sanctions are relatively easy for us (even cowardly) we're sending a message to the world that the U.S. acted, and while it won't achieve anything other than creating more suffering for the people we tried to help, we acted.

ganulv
08-15-2011, 02:00 PM
One would think that our diplomats could come up with more creative responses short of military options other than sanctions.

Probably (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/431/see-no-evil?act=0).


Sanctions didn't remove Saddam, Castro, or anyone else from power that I'm aware of

South Africa may be the exception. Or it may not. (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.39.5552)


It seems […] we're sending a message to the world that the U.S. acted, and while it won't achieve anything other than creating more suffering for the people we tried to help, we acted.

I assume that’s more or less the thinking. My fingers are crossed that the response doesn’t change for the worse (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/08/10/interventionism_run_amok).

Bob's World
08-15-2011, 02:18 PM
Sanctions work where the government must respond to the needs of its populace. Despots, kings and dictators don't miss many meals and don't care much when the people suffer.

Too often when we apply sanctions (that would certainly get the American people riled up and demanding the government to respond here), all we accomplish is a very real example for that target despot to use to validate the negative messages they put out to their people about the US. We make these men more powerful, while making their populaces more hateful of the US and our foreign policies.

Safe sanctions for democracies, they might work there.

Bill Moore
08-15-2011, 05:48 PM
Posted by Bob,


Sanctions work where the government must respond to the needs of its populace. Despots, kings and dictators don't miss many meals and don't care much when the people suffer.

Exactly, which is why recomending sanctions may be understandable if it came from a high school student who hasn't much worldly experience yet, but from our State Department?

ganulv, thanks for the links.

Rex Brynen
08-15-2011, 11:04 PM
Sanctions work where the government must respond to the needs of its populace. Despots, kings and dictators don't miss many meals and don't care much when the people suffer.

Sanctions are also intended to sway:

1) Those who, while currently fence-sitting on the regime's side of the fence, can potentially be shifted to the other side. The Syrian Sunni business class (leaving aside those linked to the Assad family), for example, could easily go either way--and the most recent round of sanctions was explicitly designed to influence them.

2) Those who might be looking for an excuse to not obey orders. As it stands, the regime is already having trouble with this, as evidenced by its non-use of much of the Syrian military (because of shaky loyalties) as well as the replacement of some senior regional officials.

If there is anything that the last forty years of authoritarian transitions has taught us is that one should never treat the "regime" as it it were a single undifferentiated mass.

In addition, sanctions can send the signal of mounting international pressure on the regime--thereby affecting the assessment of future costs and benefits by protesters and others alike. Its for that reason that most Syrian human rights and opposition groups have been pressing hard for sanctions.

Finally, there aren't always better policy options available.

I'm not saying that sanctions will prove decisive, or even hugely important. However they almost certainly push things in the right direction in this particular case.

Bill Moore
08-16-2011, 02:33 AM
Rex,

I have heard the State Department use the same logic for different countries and have yet to see it work. Excerpts of your comments and responses:


Sanctions are also intended to sway

I don't think any of us missed that the intent of the sanctions is to sway, but will they? Historically they haven't, and in a country like Syria I see no reason that they will.


Those who, while currently fence-sitting on the regime's side of the fence, can potentially be shifted to the other side. The Syrian Sunni business class (leaving aside those linked to the Assad family), for example, could easily go either way--and the most recent round of sanctions was explicitly designed to influence them.

The problem is that Assad is using force to oppress his people, so even if sanctions convinced the Sunni business class (those that don't realize that already) that Assad is bad man, just what the hell are they supposed to do? Any hostile action taken by them (hostile action includes vocal support for the protestors) could result in their ruin. Sanctions on the other hand will result in new business opportunities with those willing to violate them, and there are plently who are.


Those who might be looking for an excuse to not obey orders.

In my opinion this is an extreme reach in logic. If you're the military and your fellow soldiers are killing your fellow citizens based on orders from Assad and that isn't enough of an excuse to disobey orders, I doubt that sanctions imposed by an unpopular foreign country (that would be the U.S.) would further divide the people, soldiers, business men from their government. It may in fact unite some fence sitters to support the government based on perceived foreign interference.


Finally, there aren't always better policy options available.

This may or may not be true, and I suspect we use sanctions for the reasons stated previously, it is a process we know how to implement and it creates the illusion of the USG taking decisive action.


they almost certainly push things in the right direction in this particular case

Perhaps, but they may also push Syria to have a closer relationship with Iran (if that is even possible), and it could open the doors to nations like China and others to make business deals due to the opportunities created by the sanctions. Additionally, they will most likely cause suffering among the people (unless sanctions are limited to weapons) and overtime the blame for their suffering will be shifting to the U.S..

Sometimes doing nothing is an appropriate course of action. We already half committed to the insurgents/rebels in Libya and now that appears to be going south in a bad way with the various rebel groups turning against one another. In Egypt we are seeing the rise of Islamists again (still not sure what it will mean in the long run), so before we start championing these causes we better have a good understanding of who we're jumping in bed with.

Bill Moore
08-18-2011, 01:44 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/clinton-defends-us-response-to-crackdown-in-syria/2011/08/16/gIQA3jl0JJ_story.html


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday defended her department’s incremental response to the slayings of protesters in Syria, arguing that demands for the ouster of Syria’s president would accomplish little without the support of key allies in the region.

Agree, and it reinforces a point I made previously that when we pursue isolationist trade policies it does more harm to us than to the country we're trying to influence. We lose both business opportunities and leverage. Furthermore, the fact is that our businesses can more have more influence on the nation than any Embassy and assorted diplomats, because our businesses will have a direct impact on their lives. We missed an opportunity to engage in business in Cuba years ago, and are still slow rolling business efforts to appease a small group of angry Cubans exiles in Florida.


Clinton also sought to portray the Obama administration’s policies in Syria and Libya as examples of “smart power,” an approach that she said emphasizes collective action and international consensus over unilateral solutions that rely disproportionately on U.S. troops and treasure.

Maybe I'm a hopeless iconoclast, but I had to laugh at this one. Now we know that smart power is the hopelessness associated with multinational consensus. Another way to pretend to take action, while developing a vanguard of a thousand excuses on why you can't. :rolleyes:

Dayuhan
08-18-2011, 03:08 AM
Now we know that smart power is the hopelessness associated with multinational consensus. Another way to pretend to take action, while developing a vanguard of a thousand excuses on why you can't.

Does anyone have a practical, realistic proposal for taking action? If so, what is it?

Bob's World
08-18-2011, 10:08 AM
Well, If Clinton is serious, she should be sitting in Assad's office armed with a comprehensive and consistent US strategy for approaching the Middle East in the current era; as well as a focused plan for dealing with Arab Spring as it continues to unfold across the region. She should also have a comprehensive package of carrots and sticks to employ in the course of her conversation. She should refrain from making shoulder fired verbal assaults at Assad in the media and keep statements to a sophisticated planned message theme that addresses this (so far as I know, non-existent) overall US strategy and scheme.

On Rex's point that there may be some fence sitters who could be swayed by sanctions, then I suggest that only go after those fence sitters in that fashion if one can narrowly tailor a sanction, like a laser or GPS guided munition, to hit them. That may be in their personal bank accounts overseas, perhaps. Freezing Swiss and UAE accounts is unlikely to hurt the average Syrian much. Something along those lines.

And as always, whatever we do to Syria we need to be equally prepared to do in Saudi Arabia when that time comes (and it will come) as well.

Dayuhan
08-18-2011, 01:19 PM
She should also have a comprehensive package of carrots and sticks to employ in the course of her conversation.

What carrots and sticks would you suggest?

Rex Brynen
08-18-2011, 06:34 PM
Does anyone have a practical, realistic proposal for taking action? If so, what is it?

Damn you Dayuhan, and your constant insistence that strategies be concrete, practical, and realistic. :D

Bob's World
08-18-2011, 06:50 PM
Damn you Dayuhan, and your constant insistence that strategies be concrete, practical, and realistic. :D

I think he implied that the strategy was in fact all of those things, he merely wanted to talk about the specific tactical tools that might be applied.

Like all tactical problems, be it have a conversation and apply carrots and sticks; or take that hill and apply fire and maneuver; I would not presume to bore anyone to death with one or two of a thousand different ways either one of those tactical problems might play out. Also, in each, the opponent always gets a vote, so what one thinks they will do going in is often very different to what ends up being applied once all is said and done.

Rex Brynen
08-18-2011, 08:50 PM
I think he implied that the strategy was in fact all of those things, he merely wanted to talk about the specific tactical tools that might be applied.

There is no strategy without some discussion, or at least recognition, of operational capabilities. Strategy is about linking means and ends. Certainly you need to know what the objective (or policy, in CvC terms) is. But you also have to know what means are available, and how they can realistically be employed.

In the case of Syria (or Bahrain, to cite a parallel thread), the engagement of international actors fundamentally depends on what their leverage is. It isn't simply a minor detail to be left to the "tacticians."

Ken White
08-18-2011, 09:06 PM
There is no strategy without some discussion, or at least recognition, of operational capabilities...It isn't simply a minor detail to be left to the "tacticians."There's no sense in limiting ones self to operational capabilities -- not to mention realities and the all important political permissions, foreign and domestic -- when one can do unconstrained grand concepts which will, of course, always work as hoped. Hoped as opposed to planned or designed... ;)

Eschew stultification!!! :D

Dayuhan
08-19-2011, 12:16 AM
I think he implied that the strategy was in fact all of those things, he merely wanted to talk about the specific tactical tools that might be applied.

Now I'm confused... what strategy are we talking about here? Has somebody offered one? If so, what is it?

I don't see much in the way of strategy on the table. I see a general goal of seeming involved without becoming committed, but I'm not sure that qualifies as a strategy.

I do not consider that goal a bad thing in itself. I'm sure we've all heard the old line about involvement and commitment. Think of bacon and eggs: the chicken is involved, the pig is committed. I'm not at all sure we want to be the pig in this particular plate of bacon and eggs, especially in a part of the world where pigs (and intervening foreigners) are held in generally low regard.

A grand strategy for dealing with the "Arab Spring" could hurt us as well as help us. For one thing, excessive attachment to a grand strategy might force us into a counterproductive and predictable pattern, and we might try to apply it in places where it is not appropriate: despite similarities, each of these cases is different and requires a different response. For another, it might tempt us to try to lead and initiate in an environment where we are and should be essentially reactive, not proactive. If this is about self-determination, we have to react to what is determined and to the process through which it is determined. We can't try to lead or initiate, because if we do it isn't self-determination any more.

We have to accept that our leverage in many of these cases is very limited, and plan accordingly. There are few things more pointless and self-destructive than pursuing goals that one hasn't the capacity to achieve, or declaring that we must act without proposing a course of action.

We should not assume that this "Arab Spring" is going to usher in a golden age of democracy, or that our intervention can make it do that. Realistically, given the known complexity of transitions out of dictatorship, it's likely to be the precursor to a long hot summer, and there are excellent reasons why we shouldn't be too much a presence in there. Somebody will be burned, and it's likely to be us if we're exposed.

Dayuhan
08-19-2011, 04:49 AM
Foreign Affairs just published this review of American options on Syria...

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68129/tony-badran/obamas-options-in-damascus

Says a fair bit about why efforts to date haven't done much, and suggests a change in direction, but actually says very little about specific options for advancing the recommended policy. That seems revealing: when no methods are suggested, in generally means the author can't think of any.

Entropy
08-19-2011, 05:25 AM
It seems to me we have conflicting goals and no strategy. On the one hand, we want dictators gone and we want representative government because we think that should be the natural state of "man." On the other hand, we want stability and we also want to consider the positions of our allies who are closer to the "problem" and who will bear the costs of whatever transpires. Then there is domestic US politics which, along with everything else, serve to constrain our viable options.

Sometimes problems don't have viable solutions.

Bill Moore
08-19-2011, 06:32 AM
Sometimes problems don't have viable solutions.

It would also be helpful to remember that we don't have to act. We obviously feel compelled to act because of our national and personal values concerning human rights, representative government, etc., but just because we hope these revolutions throughout the Arab world will bring a brighter tomorrow, we really don't know what the outcome will be. Assuming the regime is overthrown in Syria it may result in more bloodshed and prolonged instability as various factions fight for power. We have seen a splintering of the resistance in Libya, and suspect we'll see the same in Syria if it isn't suppressed.

Questions we need to ask:

Why do we feel we need to act? (once it again it seems we're jumping to the conclusion we "have" to act, and the reality is we don't understand the nature of the problem yet).

Are their feasible courses of action we can pursue that will shape the situation for the better?

Bill Moore
08-19-2011, 07:59 AM
http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/08/170673.htm


SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. For months, the world has borne witness to the Asad regime’s contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.

The Asad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.

BREAK


All along, as we have worked to expand the circle of global condemnation, we have backed up our words with actions. As I’ve repeatedly said, it does take both words and actions to produce results. Since the unrest began, we have imposed strong financial sanctions on Asad and dozens of his cronies. We have sanctioned the Commercial Bank of Syria for supporting the regime’s illicit nuclear proliferation activities. And we have led multilateral efforts to isolate the regime, from keeping them off the Human Rights Council, to achieving a strong presidential statement of condemnation at the UN Security Council.

Has anyone heard official comments from China, Russia, Iran etc. on the situation in Syria?

davidbfpo
08-19-2011, 08:36 AM
Bill,

This week much was made on the BBC radio about a Russian statement:
In my discussions with President Assad during our personal conversations and in our correspondence I have been advocating one principal idea: that he should immediately launch reforms, reconcile with the opposition, restore civil accord, and start developing a modern state. Should he fail to do that, he is in for a grim fate, and we will eventually have to take some decisions on Syria, too. Naturally, we have been watching developments very attentively. The situation is changing, and so are our objectives.

Link:http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/08/05/54246871.html

My initial response to your question:
.. the first UN Security Council statement condemning the state violence against civilians. Traditional friends of Syria, such as the Russians and Chinese, went along with the statement, and other council members (Brazil, South Africa and India) also dropped their reservations and backed a statement that had taken months of diplomatic haggling.

Russian support for the statement seemed to reflect a real shift in position in Moscow, where President Dmitry Medvedev said that if President Assad did not bring about serious changes quickly, he would face "a sad fate".

Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14467849

Bob's World
08-19-2011, 10:57 AM
Several thoughts,

First, I stand by my initial comment as to a framework for an approach rooted in consistency, private diplomatic dialogs, clear public messages, and tailored approaches of carrots and sticks driven by US interests and refined by the afore mentioned private dialogs.

"Doing nothing" may well indeed be the COA that makes the best sense coming out of such an approach, but doing nothing does not mean simply ignoring a major issue that lies in the middle of a region where several very real US national interests come together, and where so much of the post-Ottoman Empire, Post WWII Western manipulations have acted to shape events, borders, governments, etc to where we are today.

I am no expert on Syria. I know that it is an ancient nation astride a major historic key terrain of North-South; East-West trade routes. I know we allowed (excuse me, opted to "do nothing") the French to carve Lebanon off of Syria following the fall of the Ottomans under the auspices of "self-determination", but with a period of mentoring until they were ready to truly govern them selves. I know we have a complicated relationship with Syria due to our support to Israel, and more recently our invasion and subsequent government shaping of Iraq.

Basically a "headline" understanding that would make any specifics I might suggest lucky shots at best, and I won't be baited by playground bullies like Dayuhan into playing that game.

As to what China and Russia might do? These nations are guided by their own interests, and are mature enough not to be baited either. They are wisely happy to allow the US to jump in and stir things up and wait and see what opportunities might arise from that. Add our Euro allies to that as well. Patience is a trait we are not famous for, and it is one that comes with maturity, and we are still a "young, strong country" and act like one. As our strength continues to fade we too will learn the patient wisdom of middle age, but we are not there yet.

I do think that calling for Assad, or any other leader, to step down is a rash mistake. Certainly at this point in the game. Creating power vacuums is rarely a good idea, far better to encourage modest reforms (again, privately, guided by fundamental principles, but tailored by the culture, populace, governance etc of those it actually affects). We can apply such a modest reform approach in more critical situations such as Israel or Saudi Arabia if need be, but would we call for leaders there to step down? Unlikely; but certainly those leaders must assume that we might. Our "hot-cold" unpredictable responses discomfort our allies at least as much as our "enemies."

Syria is important. Geo-strategically important. Historically important. (something Afghanistan, btw, is not). We base our current priorities for engagement by where perceived threats currently occupy capitals or rent office space. Such intel driven thinking is a very reactionary approach to foreign policy. Far better that remember that the "threat lay-down" is just an overlay that goes on the map, and focus on the map itself guided by a clear-eyed and narrowly tailored perspective on what our truly vital interest are, and where those interests manifest on the planet, in space, and possibly in cyber dimensions.

Dayuhan
08-19-2011, 12:56 PM
First, I stand by my initial comment as to a framework for an approach rooted in consistency, private diplomatic dialogs, clear public messages, and tailored approaches of carrots and sticks driven by US interests and refined by the afore mentioned private dialogs.

I stand by my comment - it seems to be becoming a mantra - that in the absence of real, material, tangible carrots and sticks, private dialogue and public message, no matter how consistent, mean nothing. We can't simply assume that these carrots and sticks are available: unless somebody can explain exactly what they are and how they can be applied, they do not exist.


I know we allowed (excuse me, opted to "do nothing") the French to carve Lebanon off of Syria following the fall of the Ottomans under the auspices of "self-determination"

We allowed?? How so? At that time the British and French were the dominant players in the region; the US had nothing to say about it. Nobody asked our permission, and we weren't in a position to allow or disallow anything. We "opted to do nothing" because it was way over our horizon and we had nothing to do about it and no reason to do anything about it.


I do think that calling for Assad, or any other leader, to step down is a rash mistake. Certainly at this point in the game. Creating power vacuums is rarely a good idea

Calling for Assad to step down is not going to create a power vacuum. It's not as if it's going to happen just because we call for it.


far better to encourage modest reforms (again, privately, guided by fundamental principles, but tailored by the culture, populace, governance etc of those it actually affects).

Reforms, modest or otherwise, are also not going to happen just because we encourage them. Encouragement means nothing unless (as I said, it's a mantra) the encouragement is supported by those real, material, tangible carrots and sticks.


We can apply such a modest reform approach in more critical situations such as Israel or Saudi Arabia if need be

We can apply the approach of calling for reform in those places, but those calls are not going to be translated into an actual program of reform - indeed those calls will do nothing beyond underscoring our impotence - unless they are backed by... need I repeat it?

All this talk of calling and demanding and encouraging without specifying what leverage is to be used to back the calls and demands and encouragement reminds me rather forcibly of an old cautionary tale...

A physicist, and engineer, and an economist survive a shipwreck. They salvage a quantity of canned food and drink, but have no way to gain access to the contents. After agreeing to apply their professional expertise to the problem, the physicist proposes heating the cans until the pressure inside bursts them. The engineer suggests using a sling to hurl the cans against the rocks to break them open. The economist looks up with infinite pride and suggests "assume a can opener".

Speaking of carrots and sticks without explaining what they are places you, I fear, in the position of the economist, assuming a can opener. The scurvy uneddicated able seaman who drags himself out of the surf in time to point out that there isn't any can opener... well, he's the playground bully.

Bob's World
08-19-2011, 01:34 PM
To Dayuhan: Yawn.

Your history is flawed regarding the Post-WWI scramble for the crumbs of the Ottoman empire. Wilson allowed Britain and France to twist lofty positions he brought to Versailles, and we were so concerned about avoiding any US entanglement in the Middle East that might demand US troop presence that we did little to prevent what our two "allies" unleashed on the region.

Otherwise your counters largely skirt or twist the points I made in efforts to return to your own mantra, so not much to respond to there. I have no problem with you having your own platform of ideas, but build it on your own foundation for once. You need not always bulldoze your way through my posts looking for places to hammer up your little additions.

Again, my position is sound, and I stand by it. I'm not sure what your position is, so have little to come back with in that regard.

We must focus on important things, regardless of how "hard" they might be. No country or person who avoids important things due to concerns over how difficult they might be as ever contributed much to society. But as I say, our current approaches for determining what is "important" has become horribly off balanced and are too short-term, threat-focused rather than long-tern interest and geopolitically focused. Similarly our techniques for engagement appear to be either launch a military attack or a verbal attack and miss that critical middle ground of calm diplomacy backed by credible influence and credible response capabilities.

Perhaps our leadership, like yourself, has come to doubt that the US possesses such credible influence. That is sad on both counts; but tragically so on the part of the former if that is true.

Ken White
08-19-2011, 03:46 PM
... Wilson allowed Britain and France to twist lofty positions he brought to Versailles, and we were so concerned about avoiding any US entanglement in the Middle East that might demand US troop presence that we did little to prevent what our two "allies" unleashed on the region.Wilson didn't 'allow' the British and French to do anything, they did what they wanted to do and he was powerless to stop it. He may have wished to but his -- and others -- penchant for trying to interfere in the actions of other nations notoriously failed on most counts. You seem to wish to follow in his footsteps and advocate that we continue to try to interfere where we have little or no business??? Strange. :wry:

I do agree that there was then reluctance to avoid US troop presence in the ME -- pity that thought didn't last longer. We have puttered around there without a real need to do so and have gotten enmeshed in things we do not fully understand all so we can feel good about US projection and "influence." Assinine. :rolleyes:

Is the ME really of great and abiding interest to the US -- or have we foolishly, very expensively and quite unnecessarily made it seem that it should be?
Again, my position is sound, and I stand by it.As you are certainly entitled to do -- realizing, of course, that some of us do not agree, believing that elements of your position may have merit but the total stance does not really seem all that sound. ;)

As I've said before, your vision is okay, your implementation is lacking in specifics and IMO in political viability. You cannot just brush aside the political factors (particularly with respect to the US domestic segments), they will impact what you propose and do so quite heavily. Your goal is admirable, but a route is required and it has to be realistic...
We must focus on important things, regardless of how "hard" they might be. No country or person who avoids important things due to concerns over how difficult they might be as ever contributed much to society. But as I say, our current approaches for determining what is "important" has become horribly off balanced and are too short-term, threat-focused rather than long-tern interest and geopolitically focused. Similarly our techniques for engagement appear to be either launch a military attack or a verbal attack and miss that critical middle ground of calm diplomacy backed by credible influence and credible response capabilities.As always, I agree with the sentiment expressed there. We disagree on the proper adjustment, though...
Perhaps our leadership, like yourself, has come to doubt that the US possesses such credible influence. That is sad on both counts; but tragically so on the part of the former if that is true.The issue is not whether we possess real influence, it is how we should use that we do have.

Bob's World
08-19-2011, 04:34 PM
No, the US in 1919 was not "powerless" relative to the UK and France in 1919; we merely lacked the interest or will to weigh in on the issue of the region newly freed from Ottoman control. The people and leaders of the region wanted true independence and we could have indeed championed that endstate, but instead did nothing when Britain and France wrapped a colonial land grab in the cloak of liberty. I suspect we can both agree that if Teddy Roosevelt had won the election of 1912 he would have played the same cards that Wilson was dealt quite differently. Better? Who knows, but certainly he would not have stood idly by feeling "powerless."

I think I am on solid ground that the US is indeed well-served by maintaining influence in the Middle East. Our problem is that the manipulative approaches we applied throughout the Cold War to do that are IMO obsolete, and we have yet to figure out how to maintain influence in less obtrusive ways. We are in an era of transition and there is not playbook. What we have done will not work, what we are doing is not working. To do nothing is hardly apt to produce better results.

For the most part the people and the governments of the region are sorting things out for themselves, which is always best. We do not need to shape outcomes, but I believe it is wise to act in a way that might prevent these tenuous transitions from escalating horribly out of control in a manner that nudges the shaky economies of the West over the edge.

Also, in what world is the suggestion that we are better served by our President or Sec State sitting down in private to talk with leaders such as Assad in the current situation, rather than launching public proclaimations from afar for him to stand down as we just did, an example of improper involvement?

Bill Moore
08-19-2011, 05:36 PM
davidbfpo, thanks for the input from Russia and the UN. It helps frame the issue in my pee brain.

Posted by Bob's World


"Doing nothing" may well indeed be the COA that makes the best sense coming out of such an approach, but doing nothing does not mean simply ignoring a major issue that lies in the middle of a region where several very real US national interests come together, and where so much of the post-Ottoman Empire, Post WWII Western manipulations have acted to shape events, borders, governments, etc to where we are today.

I do think that calling for Assad, or any other leader, to step down is a rash mistake. Certainly at this point in the game. Creating power vacuums is rarely a good idea, far better to encourage modest reforms (again, privately, guided by fundamental principles, but tailored by the culture, populace, governance etc of those it actually affects). We can apply such a modest reform approach in more critical situations such as Israel or Saudi Arabia if need be, but would we call for leaders there to step down? Unlikely

Agreed that we have important national interests in the region, so disengagement is not a good option for a number of reasons, so the debate in my view should focus on how we engage. I think carrots and sticks are overly simplistic and are perceived as imperialistic in nature and as such the targeted regime generally refuses to play, regardless of how irrational we believe their behavior may be.

I'm not a human behavior professional, but like all of us I'm an astute observer of behavior and it is no surprise to me that when the bully steps into situation and demands certain actions that the response will be defensive/reactionary in nature, and the target of our wrath is more likely to dig in his heels and continue down the undesired path regardless of our carrots and sticks, or more accurately because of our carrots and sticks.

While it is too late for Syria (and numerous other countries where we have missteped historically), it may be better to consider a response where we engage future Assads and help them solve their problems, to give them an honorable way out of the situation by quietly suggesting reforms, putting elections on the table once order is restored, offering Assad and his family sanctuary in another country is desired, etc. This won't be a reasonable or feasible course of action in many cases, but on the other hand once we mobilize world support (always will have dissenters and opportuntists) to put pressure on the regime, the regime tends to become stronger and more abusive in response to this pressure. The pressure alone is not sufficient, and it may be counter productive to our interests. I think we're at a point now where we, our allies, or some corporation (tongue in cheek) will have to sponsor a resistance movement if we want change, and of course that change will create a power vacuum as Bob stated, and we will not be able to control the outcome. We could also be responsible for the deaths of thousands in the ensuing violence as different factions struggle for power. I realize this is hypothetical, but that doesn't mean it is improbable. On the other hand, if we actually worked with Assad (and maybe we did during the early phases of this), and he was receptive to making real changes that would allow him to stay in power without using the iron fist method maybe the outcome would be better for all.

I trust we have a lot of smart people looking at this, but I also fear that a lot of smart people will be sidelined if their ideas do not conform to the politically correct view in D.C. (that view shifts based on whomever is in power, or whatever the national narrative is at that time, such as don't lose another country to communism).

Dayuhan, as for viable (not necessarily desirable) options at this point, I think it is low level support to the rebels, and continued to support to isolate Assad, since we already went down this path. I don't see a way to turn it around at this point.

Ken White
08-19-2011, 08:04 PM
No, the US in 1919 was not "powerless" relative to the UK and France in 1919; we merely lacked the interest or will to weigh in on the issue of the region newly freed from Ottoman control.Thank you for at long last acknowledging a point I've been making to you for a couple of years.

The US was, indeed, not powerless. Please note that I did not say we were, I said Wilson was powerless, a quite different thing. Wilson was the President and at the height of his pulpit power -- and he knew the US would not play his silly game, so HE was powerless to impeded British or French stupidity and cupidity in the former Ottoman Empire.

Thus my often made point that the best ideas in the world HAVE to consider US domestic political reality as it is, not as we wish it were. You always elide or sidestep that. You can do so. Wilson could not, nor could TR have done so -- nor will future US Presidents be able to do so.
The people and leaders of the region wanted true independence and we could have indeed championed that endstate, but instead did nothing when Britain and France wrapped a colonial land grab in the cloak of liberty. I suspect we can both agree that if Teddy Roosevelt had won the election of 1912 he would have played the same cards that Wilson was dealt quite differently. Better? Who knows, but certainly he would not have stood idly by feeling "powerless."Perhaps, I'm not a TR fan -- he was a dangerous meddler also, worse than Wilson in many respects -- but my belief is that he would not have interfered with the events to any significant degree for the same reason -- the US was not interested, no matter how interested, nosy or noisy the transitory Prez of the day happened to be. We were later ill served because TR's cousin happened to get interested, mostly because he had a war to win. Unintended consequences rule many things...
I think I am on solid ground that the US is indeed well-served by maintaining influence in the Middle East.I'm sure you do and also know that many agree with you. I and others disagree. Our follies in the ME are mostly induced by American impatience, short-termism and failure to take a long view (yes, that's redundant but the problem is redundantly bad...).
Our problem is that the manipulative approaches we applied throughout the Cold War to do that are IMO obsolete...I agree but would extend that back to WW II; we didn't do that very well, either...
...we have yet to figure out how to maintain influence in less obtrusive ways. We are in an era of transition and there is not playbook.There are many who have figured out various ways to employ or not to employ influence. Unfortunately, most of those ways have supporters, more or less vociferous and influential and our Congroids listen to all of them and support most -- hard to get a coherent 'policy' with that going on.

IMO, that's a feature, not a bug and it is useful iof considered and employed as a feature and not ignored as a mere minor bug because it is anathema to those who want coherence and a focused policy. The US of A just doesn't do that... :D

A smart Strategos would figure that out, harness it and slowly bring those discordant voices to some harmony. Probably cannot be done on one Watch, Long view again needed... ;)
What we have done will not work, what we are doing is not working. To do nothing is hardly apt to produce better results.May, may not. Wouldn't hurt to try. Either way, I think it important to consider that the actions of others will impact whatever we do or do not do and it might be beneficial if we concentrated on things we know we can affect as opposed of trying to affect things the same way on different days when our effect is proven to be less than effective. ;)
...might prevent these tenuous transitions from escalating horribly out of control in a manner that nudges the shaky economies of the West over the edge.I think you're attacking the symptom instead of the disease. If the West's economies were in even halfway decent shape, the ME would be a total non-problem (which it almost is anyway...).
Also, in what world is the suggestion that we are better served by our President or Sec State sitting down in private to talk with leaders such as Assad in the current situation, rather than launching public proclamations from afar for him to stand down as we just did, an example of improper involvement?Other than, to use an RCJ simile, me banging on your door to yell at you in a loud voice so the neighbors can hear me berating / pleading that you need to stop beating your wife -- with full knowledge that what I'm doing can range from having no effect whatsoever to inciting you to do worse things openly or more discreetly while telling me ever so politely "Thanks, I'll do something..." and either way, making my self look sort of ineffective and thus losing another step in the influence market? That world?

Dayuhan
08-19-2011, 10:33 PM
Your history is flawed regarding the Post-WWI scramble for the crumbs of the Ottoman empire. Wilson allowed Britain and France to twist lofty positions he brought to Versailles, and we were so concerned about avoiding any US entanglement in the Middle East that might demand US troop presence that we did little to prevent what our two "allies" unleashed on the region.

What, specifically, could have been done to prevent the British and French from doing what they pleased? Not hypothetically, realistically, given the domestic political constraints of the time and the international position of the US at that time. You say we could have "championed that endstate", but what specific actions could have been taken, what tangible carrots and sticks could have been applied to achieve that endstate... again, given the real constraints of domestic politics and the US position at that time?


Again, my position is sound, and I stand by it.

It would certainly be sound if you could tell us what specific forms of influence you propose to use to achieve it. Ken said it better and more concisely than I can: your goal is admirable, but a route is required and it has to be realistic. Without that realistic route, no position is sound. We can speak all day of whether gradual reform or regime change is "better", but unless we have a realistic route to achieving either, it's just hollow talk. What we think is "better" really doesn't matter. It's not about us and we aren't going to decide what happens. We are not in control... which is a good thing, IMO, as I suspect we'd end up in a deep pile of nasty if we were in control.


Similarly our techniques for engagement appear to be either launch a military attack or a verbal attack and miss that critical middle ground of calm diplomacy backed by credible influence and credible response capabilities.

Perhaps our leadership, like yourself, has come to doubt that the US possesses such credible influence. That is sad on both counts; but tragically so on the part of the former if that is true.

Ok, fine... what's the credible influence? What are the carrots and sticks, and how do you propose to apply them? How are we supposed to use them if nobody knows what they are? Are we to simply assume influence with no idea what it's built on?


Also, in what world is the suggestion that we are better served by our President or Sec State sitting down in private to talk with leaders such as Assad in the current situation, rather than launching public proclaimations from afar for him to stand down as we just did, an example of improper involvement?

I wouldn't say a private conversation is improper, just that it's not likely to accomplish anything unless it's supported by real influence: meaning those specific, material, tangible carrots and sticks. Until we know what those are and how we're willing to apply them, I don't see what we're going to achieve with a private conversation... not that it would remain private for long.

What would you want the President or SecState to say in such a conversation... and why do you think Assad would listen? We're not exactly on his most trusted list.

As for my own position, I'm not fully comfortable with the current course of action, but I haven't got a better idea, so I'll refrain from criticizing it. I can think of all manner of glorious goals, but there's no point in talking about them, because I can't propose any realistic means by which they might be achieved. I don't see where that credible influence is going to come from, and I don't see any practical carrots and sticks that we can apply to influence the situation. If you do see them, please tell us what they are... but please also recognize the futility of talking about influence or carrots and sticks without defining what they are, what they're based on, and how they will be applied.

I apologize if that sounds like bullying, but building an noble edifice on a foundation of quicksand seems a dangerous endeavor to me.

Bill Moore
08-19-2011, 10:33 PM
Posted by Ken,


I think you're attacking the symptom instead of the disease. If the West's economies were in even halfway decent shape, the ME would be a total non-problem (which it almost is anyway...).

Unless you're suggesting we have no interests in the Middle East and / or that we should become isolationists (perhaps we should, but it seems those who have pushed globalism to the extreme have already won that battle and I don't see how we can turn back at this point), I don't understand how you can claim the ME is almost a non-problem.

From an economic stand point, keeping the oil and gas flowing is vital to a number of economies around the globe, and if say the economy in Italy tanks because it isn't getting gas from Libya, it will damage the Eurozone as a whole, and the world economy as a whole. Economics is always in our interest, and unfortunately we have tied (perhaps there was no way to avoid it) our economic performance to the overall global performance. Its the old butterfly flapping its wings again.

Politically and culturally we have ties to Israel and the instability in the ME may or may not result in an increased threat to Israel, but it is telling that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt have publicly stated they desire to invalidate the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. If Israel is attacked by these States that will impact the U.S. in a number of ways I suspect.

In regards to GWOT, if the U.S. doesn't support popular movements (support doesn't need to be anything more than making public statements) in the ME, then we leave an opening for the extremists to do so. We don't want the extremists shaping the narrative, and while they may end up shaping it in the long run, to claim it isn't in our interest just doesn't seem to mesh with the reality of the current global political and economic system.

I guess if we ignored all this it would eventually work out in the long run, and it may even work out quicker and for the best if we didn't meddle, but I can the some of the reasons we feel compelled to meddle.

Ken White
08-20-2011, 01:14 AM
Unless you're suggesting we have no interests in the Middle East and / or that we should become isolationists (perhaps we should, but it seems those who have pushed globalism to the extreme have already won that battle and I don't see how we can turn back at this point), I don't understand how you can claim the ME is almost a non-problem.In reverse order, no desire for isolationism on my part, more global engagement would be better -- but that engagement should not be led, as it is now, by DoD.

I can and do claim the ME is almost a non-problem for the US -- but that is not necessarily the case for the ME itself, for Europe or those in the far east that need ME oil. The ME becomes a problem for us only in so far as it affects those others AND we clumsily try to ameliorate their concerns. Which is what we're doing and that, alone is why the ME seems to be so important to so many (a number of whose jobs depend on finding crises in which to putter or about which to think...).

I'm personally far from convinced we should be doing that saving the World thing though I acknowledge the Foreign Policy establishment totally disagrees and accept that my opinion is a minority position. I take some small solace in being out in the cold by knowing I've been right on more in the last 50 years or so than they, most, have -- and IMO, they're getting worse, not better...
From an economic stand point, keeping the oil and gas flowing is vital to a number of economies around the globe, and if say the economy in Italy tanks because it isn't getting gas from Libya, it will damage the Eurozone as a whole, and the world economy as a whole.Thank you for supporting my point ;) -- the ME is not important to us, it is to others and we have to or want to be seen as being concerned by their concern.
...Economics is always in our interest, and unfortunately we have tied (perhaps there was no way to avoid it) our economic performance to the overall global performance...Don't think it could have been or should have been avoided -- BUT what should have happened is that we should have allowed / forced the rest of the world to stand up on their own and not rely on us to fix things. You are correct that the flow of that oil is critical to some; I'm not at all sure that means it is our job to make their critical problem into our problem. It would perhaps be better for us and them if they took care of their problems and we took care of ours.

Not least because we really do NOT do a good job of fixing the problems of others... :rolleyes:
Politically and culturally we have ties to Israel and the instability in the ME may or may not result in an increased threat to Israel, but it is telling that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt have publicly stated they desire to invalidate the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. If Israel is attacked by these States that will impact the U.S. in a number of ways I suspect.I'm reminded of the words of Secretary of State George Catlett Marshall to Harry Truman in 1948: "Mr. President, I serve at your pleasure but if you recognize Israel, I will not be able to vote for you in the next election."

You've just made another of my oft stated (overstated??? :rolleyes: ) points -- most of our 'foreign' policy is simply US domestic political policy expanded to the minimum amount. That "minimum amount" is always present and causes all sorts of trouble. It gets us into half baked, ill thought out schemes with one eye, one hand and both legs firmly planted in the US and poor attention and minimal effort devoted to ALL the foreign issues (and that same meddling insures there are always plenty of those out there...). That doesn't work and we have sixty recent years of history to prove it.
In regards to GWOT...There is no such thing. There is massive over reaction to some events for domestic political purposes. Some good is being done in the ME, SEA and elsewhere but much of it is wheel spinning for effect. Afghanistan at this point comes to mind. Iraq came to mind in 2005 or so; 2003 was necessary IMO, what followed was not. Not at all.
...if the U.S. doesn't support popular movements (support doesn't need to be anything more than making public statements) in the ME, then we leave an opening for the extremists to do so. We don't want the extremists shaping the narrative, and while they may end up shaping it in the long run...That's the theory. I disagree. First, public statements not backed up with action create an aura of hypocrisy and the World, quite rightly, does not trust us because we too often say one thing and do another. I'll also point out that our governmental system is chaotic and that means we will always be behind the curve in the information battle unless an existential threat pops up -- Terror as in the "GWO" on is NOT an existential threat. All we have done in trying to get in, keep up and / or win the 'information battle' is make ourselves look like a bunch of chumps. US Governmental incompetence and US Media incompetence simply make efforts to compete worse than doing nothing. The bad guys are going to win that one and while I understand we cannot just concede, we can realize that we will always be the disadvantaged player and adjust accordingly. Stark honesty would be a great first step...

Secondly, supporting popular movements is fraught with problems. We emasculated our Humint capability in the 70s and 80s so we were and still are essentially operating half blind. Thus we know little to nothing about who or what we're supporting (much less why...). Given history since WW II, I submit we'd have been far better off had we not supported popular movements (and a few unpopular ones as well) but have simply been even handed about it and avoided sticking our nose into it with and aiming to influencing who won. In most cases, our true interests were effected little to not at all.
...or to claim it isn't in our interest just doesn't seem to mesh with the reality of the current global political and economic system.Now there, I agree with you. Emphasis on "current" and "system." We are the player and victim in a massive case of unintended consequences and the world system that now exists is in large measure a product of US machinations from WW II, through Bretton Woods and the UN. The problem is that in democratic nations, the turnover in politicians adversely impacts planning and follow through ability and in our case, that is particularly acute. We consistently if inadvertently shot ourselves in the foots (plural incidents :D ). Looks like we're determined to continue doing that, the "current system" virtually demands it...

That doesn't mnake it right, just reality -- I'm for rightful reality, m'self.

All that said, we are where we are and the majority that thinks the ME is one of our 'vital interests' has, as you said, won that one. I'm with Bob Jones on recognizing that but saying it did not have to be this way and that we can -- we should -- do better.
I guess if we ignored all this it would eventually work out in the long run, and it may even work out quicker and for the best if we didn't meddle, but I can the some of the reasons we feel compelled to meddle.As can I. One big one I see is that our government wide budgeting process seeks thing in which to meddle, our various personnel and personal systems reward meddling and those things won't change much (they can, however, be worked to be advantageous) -- but seeing them is not necessarily believing them...

Dayuhan
08-20-2011, 02:27 AM
... I'm not necessarily averse to action. I'm not even necessarily and at all time averse to a bit of meddling. Before we contemplate action, commitment, and involvement,though, we need to get some things straight, especially when meddling is proposed.

We need to know our goal: what exactly do we want to achieve, and why?

We need to know and realistically assess the proposed method of achieving that goal, in detail.

We need to assess our commitment: what resources are we actually willing to commit, and do we have a realistic probability of success within those constraints? Is this goal something we want, or something we need? Do we have the political will to chew what we bite off? If we don't, better not bite it, because we'll likely end up choking on it.

We need to realistically assess the leverage we can and are willing to bring to bear, and its ability to achieve the desired goal.

We need to anticipate, to the best of our ability, the actions of those whose interests diverge from ours, and assess the leverage they can bring against us.

We need to assess the potential for unintended adverse consequences.

If those assessments come up unfavorably, or if we can only make them come up favorably by exaggerating our own capacity and will and underestimating those of our rivals, action may not be the smartest thing. Doing nothing, or very limited involvement, may not always be the most viscerally appealing course, but it's better than sticking your dick in a rat trap, diving into quicksand in an impulsive attempt to rescue someone, or sending forces out to achieve tasks that they are not equipped or trained to accomplish and that we are not willing to support to the extent needed for any level of success.

"Influence" isn't an abstract thing: either it's based on tangible carrots and sticks or it doesn't exist. If we don't know what the carrots and sticks are, the other guy won't know either, and he'll decline to be influenced. Any proposal based on the use of influence has to describe and assess exactly what carrots and sticks are to be used and how, just as a plan for military action has to be built around the capacities and constraints of the available forces.

Bill Moore
08-20-2011, 03:42 AM
Ken,

I actually agree with most of your responses, and I'm not sure when that personal transition took place. It started when I wondered I why I was in countries in helping dictators strengthen their militaries to oppress their own people in the name of fighting communism to free the oppressed. I joined the military, specifically Special Forces to fight communism, to save the world from this evil ideology and I really believed in the cause. I still believe in the anti-communist crusade, but in hindsight realize we made some stupid deals with the devil to achieve a temporary strategic advantage over the communists. There is no doubt in my mind that communism was evil, it resulted in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed socieities and economies, etc., but shouldn't have given us license to be stupid. In some regards we lost our moral compass during the Cold War.

Fast shift forward to the 90s when we no longer had a boogy man to fight, we shifted to what some called global reconstruction efforts post Cold War, where we focused on peace operations, fighting the drug trade, still fighting terrorism (it wasn't new in the 90s, and it sure as hell wasn't new on 9/11), humanitarian assistance etc. We pushed multinational operations, trying to get other nations to "share" the burden of reconstruction. We enabled regional responses to security challenges, most which of course were largely funded by and led by the U.S.. I think our intentions for the most part were good, but were they really in the national interest? The people shaping popular thinking in the beltway then were pushing the importance of globalism, the End of History, integrating the disconnected economies (read developing world) into the larger global economic system, etc. It was very much about aggressive meddling diplomacy backed by military action.

9/11 gave reason to some of the opinion shapers to (such as CNAS) to accelerate our meddling, while others (more level headed in my view) wanted to limit GWOT to finding and killing terrorists that were a threat to us (not the rest of the world), not reforming global society in hopes of some permanet cure for terrorism by addressing underlying issues. We were naive enough to call this Smart Power, though little has changed. Sadly little of what we're doing can actually be tied to national defense (outside of the CIA and Special Operations), but instead it can be tied to supporting the idealism of a few (such as the great minds in CNAS) who promote that it is "our" responsibility to meddle and transform these poor countries, to fix their economies, to transform their incorrect political views, etc. Eventually they'll catch on that these are hostile acts and we're actually developing tomorrow's enemies who actually will be a threat to our Nation.

I'm actually beginning to think as a nation we have going collectively mad, and that this budget crisis may actually save us from ourselves in the long run. I'm still an idealist in many respects, but have learned the importance of moderation, listening to those who we want to help (who may not want the help we want to push on them), and the importance of keeping real threats to our nation as top priority, which doesn't mean during on the lights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is a great job for the UN, State Department and USAID.

Ken White
08-20-2011, 04:26 AM
That and a few HAH landings to jiggle the vertebra... :D
There is no doubt in my mind that communism was evil, it resulted in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed socieities and economies, etc., but shouldn't have given us license to be stupid. In some regards we lost our moral compass during the Cold War.Yes to all that! In our defense, the whole world sort of lost it during the 60s; the world was changing, too few realized it, even fewer realized the extreme breadth and depth of the changes. We had a generation of moral and ethical floundering coupled with uncertainty on how to react and all that overlaid by the world's governing elites and many in Academe futilely trying to keep things from changing. I see hopeful glimmers that maybe we collectively are finally realizing we've been in a very different world for over 20 year and have not adapted well to that -- and that failure to adapt needs to be rectified. Things are looking up, only slightly but any up is better than more down...
Fast shift forward to the 90s when we no longer had a boogy man to fight...It was very much about aggressive meddling diplomacy backed by military action.Yep. Bad news is that the system almost seemed to require a boogy man. It didn't, really but those who benefited from threats invented some to justify their existence -- or improve their lot.

The CoComs ended up with way too much power by default, not by design, the US government got redesigned by several Presidents who had inherited the WW II induced 'do something even if it's wrong' mantra and who were concerned more about their 'legacy' and their political party than they were about the nation -- in that they were ably assisted by a Congress that redesigned some programs to buy votes, pamper the middle class and insure long encumbency for them and success for their party. None of those folks were totally bad, most meant well -- but those factors had far too much influence on everything they did...

The result is a system that seems to require crises and meddling. :mad:
Sadly little of what we're doing can actually be tied to national defense (outside of the CIA and Special Operations), but instead it can be tied to supporting the idealism of a few (such as the great minds in CNAS) who promote that it is "our" responsibility to meddle and transform these poor countries, to fix their economies, to transform their incorrect political views, etc. Eventually they'll catch on that these are hostile acts and we're actually developing tomorrow's enemies who actually will be a threat to our Nation.True dat. The 'Think Tanks' are a significant part of the problem as they, too must have crises of one sort or another to justify their existence.

I agree that some in the CIA and SOF are doing productive stuff -- but as you know, I also believe some are being badly misused. Losing the bubble is not restricted to inside the beltway...
I'm actually beginning to think as a nation we have going collectively mad, and that this budget crisis may actually save us from ourselves in the long run. I'm still an idealist in many respects, but have learned the importance of moderation, listening to those who we want to help (who may not want the help we want to push on them), and the importance of keeping real threats to our nation as top priority, which doesn't mean during on the lights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is a great job for the UN, State Department and USAID.Not mad, we've just managed to dumb ourselves down to a significant degree and the so-called governing elite crowd who think they have all the answers are a part of that -- they do not want an educated, informed populace. Those kind of folks are way too much trouble to govern...:mad:

We might continue to slide until an existential threat appears and I don't think a mere budget crisis is enough to slow that slide significantly. Still, as I said, I see small but hopeful signs and I know we generally rally pretty well. Let's hope we do not continue to slide down too rapidly or too much to rally when that threat eventually appears. And it will. The kids'll handle it. They always have...

jcustis
08-20-2011, 04:40 AM
If those assessments come up unfavorably, or if we can only make them come up favorably by exaggerating our own capacity and will and underestimating those of our rivals, action may not be the smartest thing.

This, sadly, is where we and other states selfishly, myopically, and stubbornly, get it wrong all the time, even when we do a fair to good job at all the other stuff.

davidbfpo
08-20-2011, 10:37 AM
It appears that Russia and Turkey will not follow the joint call for Assad to step down:
“We do not share the point of view of the United States and Europe in regard to President Bashar al-Assad,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said. The Interfax news agency quoted ministry sources as saying that Mr Assad had done “quite a lot” on promised reforms, and that the pledge to stop military operations was an “important move”.

In a serious blow, Turkey also refused to join the calls for Mr Assad to go, saying the opposition was not yet united. Turkey, once a key ally of Mr Assad, had previously suggested it might be on the verge of turning against him definitively.

Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8711970/Syria-forces-continue-to-shoot-protesters-dead-despite-calls-from-West-for-Assad-to-quit.html

davidbfpo
08-20-2011, 10:48 AM
Just a thought. Why not increase Western broadcasting to the region? The UK is stupidly reducing public funding to the BBC World Service, which IIRC uses transmitters in Cyprus.

I noted remarks yesterday that no decision has been made by the EU on stopping purchases of Syrian oil & gas (I didn't realise they had their own exports).

Is it possible to have a 'Boycott Syria' campaign? A ban on allowing Syrian Airlines flights into the EU, reducing diplomatic representation and a slowdown in international financial institutions.

Bob's World
08-20-2011, 01:17 PM
It appears that Russia and Turkey will not follow the joint call for Assad to step down:

Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8711970/Syria-forces-continue-to-shoot-protesters-dead-despite-calls-from-West-for-Assad-to-quit.html

I have to side with Russia and Turkey on this one. My fear is that those who work in the bubble of the White House are coming to believe that because they proclaimed that Mubarak and Qaddafi must step down, that that is why those leaders made or will make their decision on that topic. So that now they need merely utter those magic words and Assad will also "obey."

This is the same kind of thinking that got the senior leadership at DoD to believe that it was our surge of troops, or Clear-Hold-Build operations in Iraq that led to the that country turning the corner on stability a couple years ago.

Cause and effect. We are getting into a bad habit of drinking our own Kool-Aid.

Yes influence is a mix of tangible and intangible things. This is what the conversation must be about between our leadership and Mr. Assad if we indeed decide we have vital national interests at stake in how the situation in Syria develops. The goal for the US should be as simple as greater stability and enhanced US influence in a region/populace where we have not made many friends over the past 60 years. We should see the opportunity to make small, but important gains.

Whether or not Mr. Assad stays or goes is a matter between him and the people of Syria. Period. We need to STFU on that topic, in private or public. It makes us look like A-holes and cheapens our image, and thus influence, as a nation when we take such extreme positions that are so far outside our lane, and our interests to promote.

Call for each side to adopt less violent tactics? Sure.

Recommend focusing discussions between reps of the populace and the government on broad areas that historically the major drivers of such unrest?
(Legitimacy, Justice, Respect, Hope per my published model as a start point, but other areas as well). Sure.

Assad can no more kill or buy his way out of trouble than the US can order the problem to go away from afar. There are actions we can and should encourage; similarly there are actions we can and should discourage.

To go in with a starting position that "Assad must go" is no way to get to that discussion, and only serves to make Russia and Turkey look like the reasonable ones (And if no thinks that Turkey does not think that they deserve, and ultimately will, reestablish control over Syria they are missing the big picture. Anything either of those two countries promotes will definitely be crafted to advance their interests as they define them. We could learn a thing or two from old empires who have both risen and fallen in recent history).

Dayuhan
08-21-2011, 12:17 AM
Yes influence is a mix of tangible and intangible things.

I'm curious about this construct of "intangible influence". How exactly does that work? If it isn't tangible, how does it influence anyone?


This is what the conversation must be about between our leadership and Mr. Assad if we indeed decide we have vital national interests at stake in how the situation in Syria develops. The goal for the US should be as simple as greater stability and enhanced US influence in a region/populace where we have not made many friends over the past 60 years. We should see the opportunity to make small, but important gains.

So what's the proposed conversation going to be about? Certainly not about our goals, about which Mr Assad doesn't give a damn. What would you want to say to him, and why do you think he'd listen? Not as if he likes us, trusts us, or would believe anything we say...


Whether or not Mr. Assad stays or goes is a matter between him and the people of Syria.

Certainly so, but if we urge reform or try to promote reform under the existing government, we are taking sides on that issue just as surely as if we demand that he step down. If we do that we communicate clearly that we are content with the current government and that we believe it can change and that it should stay in place. Either way, we're involved and taking sides.


Call for each side to adopt less violent tactics? Sure.

Recommend focusing discussions between reps of the populace and the government on broad areas that historically the major drivers of such unrest?
(Legitimacy, Justice, Respect, Hope per my published model as a start point, but other areas as well). Sure.

Assad can no more kill or buy his way out of trouble than the US can order the problem to go away from afar. There are actions we can and should encourage; similarly there are actions we can and should discourage.


I see much talk of calling and recommending and encouraging and discouraging here, but very little about what we can actually do to support the calls, recommendations, encouragement and discouragement. Without supporting action it's just words. Those words will not have any influence on Mr Assad unless they are backed up by credible carrots and sticks, and they won't win us points with the populaces of Syria or the Middle East either: they can recognize hollow talk as well as anyone.

At this point I don't see external pressure having any real influence on what's happening in Syria. Sanctions are not going to pull Assad off his road; he's committed to it and he's not going to reverse course. The only things I can see really changing the game would be internal. If the armed forces or a significant portion of them dump Assad and switch sides, that would be a game-changer, but there's little public evidence to suggest that's imminent.

The "we think Assad should step down" statement might be a message in open code to anyone thinking of staging a coup... but us outsiders wouldn't know about that.

Rex Brynen
08-21-2011, 02:14 AM
My fear is that those who work in the bubble of the White House are coming to believe that because they proclaimed that Mubarak and Qaddafi must step down, that that is why those leaders made or will make their decision on that topic. So that now they need merely utter those magic words and Assad will also "obey."

You're kidding, right? Do you really think that State and CIA sit at their desks playing video games all day, and don't brief seniors? That's odd, because I certainly know folks who get dragged over the White House first thing in the morning to do precisely that.

There are no illusions that calling on Assad to go will change the situation in and of itself. However, calling on him to go:

1) strengthens the momentum of the protests
2) more generally helps position the US in the region vis-a-vis democratization/the Arab Spring/etc
3) reinforces the earlier move made Saudi Arabia

We can debate whether that is the right call--I think it was. However, there's no evidence that it was taken in a bubble (and if so, it was a pretty large bubble, since the entire EU did the same thing).

Bill Moore
08-21-2011, 07:47 AM
1) strengthens the momentum of the protests
2) more generally helps position the US in the region vis-a-vis democratization/the Arab Spring/etc
3) reinforces the earlier move made Saudi Arabia

Rex, this appears to be logical at the superficial level, but dig just a little deeper and these positions lose cool points quickly.

1) Our public statements convince the activists we'll help, so the protests do gain momentum, and while we haplessly watch several more get killed. Over time the relatives/friends of victims blame the U.S. for sending signals and then failing to act. Much like the Shi'a and Kurdish uprisings in Iraq after Desert Storm. Rise up and throw Saddam out, and we'll sit here and watch you get slaughtered.

2) If my 1) happends, then your point 2) is dead in the water.

3) Saudi doesn't defend human rights, it defends it interests and its interests are limiting Iranian influence in the region.

Dayuhan
08-21-2011, 09:56 AM
Saudi doesn't defend human rights, it defends it interests and its interests are limiting Iranian influence in the region.

They lack our altruism, sir.

Fuchs
08-21-2011, 11:04 AM
Such a call cuddles the domestic sense of importance, relevance and power - that's already almost all about it.

davidbfpo
08-21-2011, 12:51 PM
A comment on the Open Democracy website, which concludes:
In the final analysis, sanctions are unlikely to produce the desired effect in time. Assad’s killing machine will continue to target civilians, but sanctions will suck the economic and political oxygen out of the regime.

And ends with:
Most important of all, sanctions will demonstrate that western countries are serious about ending the brutal crackdown on the protests.

It also adds in some detail on Syrian oil and its impact.

Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/islam-qasem/are-western-sanctions-against-syria-option

Bob's World
08-21-2011, 12:52 PM
Just to tack onto Bill's point regarding the Saudis and interests. Those are the interests of a few men, a ruling family; not the interests of the populace or nation of Saudi Arabia. The larger interests are subjugated to the self-serving ones.

Rex, yes the White House receives briefs; and then colors that information in the context of the group-think within the bubble they live in (Just as we all do here on SWJ, btw, ;) ) . I suspect it is the same intel people who briefed Bush have been briefing Obama. You can see where that pulled the President off some aspects of the ideological platform he ran on (perhaps we should give all the candidates the "real brief" at a certain point in the process earlier than we currently do only after one has won). But the Obama White House has a reputation for being particularly singular in ideological focus and perspective. I couldn't confirm that, but the nature of decisions, messages, and approaches to all manner of problems tend to validate that perspective.

Fuchs
08-21-2011, 01:35 PM
Rex, yes the White House receives briefs; and then colors that information in the context of the group-think within the bubble they live in (Just as we all do here on SWJ, btw, ;) ) .

Hey, speak for yourself.

I still pretend that I'm almost immune to group pressure and group think! :D

Rex Brynen
08-21-2011, 02:14 PM
1) Our public statements convince the activists we'll help, so the protests do gain momentum, and while we haplessly watch several more get killed. Over time the relatives/friends of victims blame the U.S. for sending signals and then failing to act. Much like the Shi'a and Kurdish uprisings in Iraq after Desert Storm. Rise up and throw Saddam out, and we'll sit here and watch you get slaughtered.

2) If my 1) happends, then your point 2) is dead in the water.

3) Saudi doesn't defend human rights, it defends it interests and its interests are limiting Iranian influence in the region.

Syrian activists are well aware of the likely limits of US action, yet strongly supported (and indeed called for) both the call for Bashar to go, and the intensification of sanctions. Syrians certainly don't think the US will "act" in an interventionist sense.

As to the Saudis, no one in Syria thinks they're acting in the name of human rights (although the Sunni sectarian component to their Syria policy is, at present, not insignificant--and many Saudis few that as "human rights"). However, that in no way lessens the impact of increasingly strong GCC support for the Syrian protests. Saudi motives are relevant--Saudi actions are.

davidbfpo
09-03-2011, 07:49 PM
Two weeks ago I posted:
I noted remarks yesterday that no decision has been made by the EU on stopping purchases of Syrian oil & gas (I didn't realise they had their own exports).

Well now it is indicated at an EU meeting something has been achieved, according to our Foreign Minister, sanctions that are:
Very significant..No new deals can be agreed on that (oil sales) after today into the European Union and that is 95 percent of their crude oil.

Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8739421/William-Hague-Syrian-oil-sanctions-agreed.html

(Added) The Independent has some more detail:
the detail of the agreement however, which includes an Italian amendment that allows companies to continue to trade with Syria under existing contracts until 15 November. Because oil industry agreements usually allow for 30- or 60-day payment periods, European oil firms could well be funding the Assad administration into 2012. The EU buys as much 95 per cent of Syria's oil. France, Germany and Italy are the biggest buyers.

The EU also banned European banks from opening credit lines for oil sales, and prohibited insurance companies from insuring the cargoes.

Link:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/eu-oil-ban-denounced-as-too-little-too-late-2348391.html



My reading is that means no new contracts, hardly 'significant'. The EU has agreed to the lowest impact possible policy.

davidbfpo
09-09-2011, 02:02 PM
A NYT story, which is based on some IMHO very thin evidence:
Regional nations can assist the Syrian people and government in the implementation of essential reforms and the resolution of their problems

Mr. Ahmadinejad said in an interview in Tehran, according to his official Web site. Other press accounts of the interview with a Portuguese television station quoted him as also saying:
A military solution is never the right solution..

Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/world/middleeast/09iran.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=world

davidbfpo
10-31-2011, 10:36 PM
A bleak assessment by IISS, in a Strategic Comment, which ends with:
Reports suggested that the Assad regime initially reacted to Gadhafi's death by stepping up its brutal repression of protests. So the country could be in for a period of increasing violence. While the opposition may feel that too much blood has been shed for it to back down, its activists have failed so far to gather the momentum or cross-class consensus that would be required to challenge the government’s unity. The prospects of Syria emerging from conflict appear bleak.

Link:http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-17-2011/october/signs-of-civil-war-in-syria/

Some of the recent footage appears to show artillery and tanks firing on buildings, but still the opposition protest, invariably after Friday prayers. As before I rely on this website for updates:http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2011/10/31/egypt-syria-and-beyond-liveblog-the-spark-of-detention.html

Bob's World
11-01-2011, 09:22 AM
Assad is clinging to a dream of a past that no longer exists. The populace dreams of a future that does not yet exist. In the middle there can only be compromise and evolution, or suppression and revolution.

Whatever the US does, or does not do, sends a message to the leaders and populaces of the region that are all in some stage of similar instability.

Certainly Western manipulations, over the past 100 years in particular, have served to disrupt and supplant the natural evolutionary processes of governance across this region in ways that we will perhaps never fully appreciate, but that contribute significantly, if not primarily, to the pent up popular energy exploding across the region this year, and to the surge of terrorism against Western targets since the waning days of the Cold War.

Does this role, this responsibility, somehow create a duty? Perhaps a moral one, but such duties are unenforceable and easily ignored in the world of flexible situational morality that surrounds such policy decisions.

If we selfishly put our own interests first (and that is what wise states do, but hopefully with a growing appreciation that now more than ever how the affected populaces feel about those actions matters), we will understand these events in Syria and elsewhere across the region for what they are and understand that there is a tremendous opportunity for the US to reduce the likelihood of Muslim terrorist attacks against the US if we act appropriately. This is an opportunity that never existed in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and certainly the nature of our engagement in either of those two countries has never been designed "appropriately" to maximize such effects either. In fact, they have in large part done the opposite. Can we learn from those experiences?

Like the US, Assad is don't what his instincts tell him he must do to survive, and like the US he is acting out boldly, violently, and inappropriately. He too misjudges the nature and the depth of this problem. He too rationalizes away his causal responsibility for getting into the mess he finds himself in today. But it is not too late for him in his country, or the US in her foreign policy, to turn this around. And the Saudis, government and populace, watch to see which way this falls as they plot their respective moves....

Step one is to recognize a problem for what it is and to take responsibility. In many ways that is the hardest step of all. Assad and Obama as individuals could both fall for making that proper step, but both of their nations would move forward in significant ways. Syria will be around for another 1000 years, Assad forgets he is just playing a critical, yet short role in the history of his country. He has an opportunity to either be the leader who forced old ways to drag on another decade or two, to be the leader who's vision and leadership lifted Syria into that new millennium. So far he is failing the test of history.

These events are a cross roads for the US as well, and decisions made will determine if we are as successful in the emerging era as we were in the era leading up to this period of transition. Certainly we have every opportunity to achieve even greater success in the future, but that will require us to be able to release ourselves from our own understanding of the nature and effects of our Cold War actions, both prior too, and subsequent to the Soviet collapse.

Meanwhile the drama continues to play out and the stakes are high, and whatever the US does or does not do in Syria, it will have much larger impact for the US on what it will be faced with everywhere else. This is not about foolish concepts of "responsibility to protect populaces" or duties to preserve existing governments; this is about having a vision for who we are and who we want to be, and an honest perception of who we are, and acting accordingly. There is no risk free option on the table, it really just comes down to understanding the situation and ourselves, and acting accordingly.

Like Assad, we must shift from seeking to defeat threats to one of seeking to resolve problems. We'll see.

Dayuhan
11-01-2011, 09:47 AM
If we selfishly put our own interests first (and that is what wise states do, but hopefully with a growing appreciation that now more than ever how the affected populaces feel about those actions matters), we will understand these events in Syria and elsewhere across the region for what they are and understand that there is a tremendous opportunity for the US to reduce the likelihood of Muslim terrorist attacks against the US if we act appropriately.

I'm curious... what action, exactly, would you consider "appropriate", and how would you expect it to "reduce the likelihood of Muslim terrorist attacks against the US"?

Bob's World
11-01-2011, 10:39 AM
I'm curious... what action, exactly, would you consider "appropriate", and how would you expect it to "reduce the likelihood of Muslim terrorist attacks against the US"?

In general terms the US must come to grips with the fact that how others in general, and certainly those who live in the Middle East, perceive the US and US foreign policy far differently than the US government and US citizens view the same. That is not to say that either perception is accurate, or that one is better than the other, just to say that they are different. In this business, perceptions matter far more than facts. We need to understand that delta in perception. Agree or disagree, we need to understand and take it serious.

Next the US must shape, project, and nurture the perception that we are not for radical change, nor are we for the blind approval and sustainment of any particular government that we perceive as the best champion of US interests in that particular country. We similarly must not be for the promotion of US values and perceptions on democratic government that we have grown so fond of preaching as "universal" and the only "right" way to do things. Instead the US must simply go on record that we hold no corner on the market for good ideas on how to govern, but that for our own interests we believe that stability in the Middle East is important, and that the artificial stability of strongman regimes is proving to be an obsolete and failing model in the Middle East.

We should publicly encourage populaces to seek peaceful, but powerful (history shows that non-violent approaches to insurgency garner far more international support and are more successful) approaches to advance their concerns; while privately engaging governments to encourage them listen to their people's reasonable demands and to seriously consider the small changes that history shows can produce such dramatic effects in calming populaces in this stage of dissent.

Air strikes and public condemnations are not the best way to move these issues forward in a manner that also repairs public perceptions of the US in the process. Neither are invasions to change regimes, or train and equip programs that turn governmental thugs into more effective governmental thugs. We cling to the status quo for fear of the future. It is time for the US to rely less on the boldness of our military, and to seek instead bold efforts at private diplomacy.

The keys for the US are stability in the region and a repaired reputation. Any effort dedicated equally to both is better than any effort that ignores one for the other.

davidbfpo
11-01-2011, 11:04 AM
Dayuhan,

You asked Bob a question:
I'm curious... what action, exactly, would you consider "appropriate", and how would you expect it to "reduce the likelihood of Muslim terrorist attacks against the US"?

Bob has given his strategic viewpoint, much of which is dependent on perceptions in the Middle East IMHO.

Jumping into the discussion, can I answer the second part first? The hard core Jihadist is not the target here. It is those who adapting Bob's words far back are angry about US / Western / national policy and the currently seen future and doing our best to stop them becoming motivated too. IIRC we touched upon this in the thread after OBL's demise - the possibility that the Jihad's external legitimacy was reducing and so fewer would join up. If more people say 'No' that will have little impact, if more people say 'No and I will oppose you' that is significant. Opposition may include street protests against outrages, as seen in Spain over ETA after individuals were murdered.

Such an overt public stance and a covert stance by the public, say within the family will reduce in my opinion the likelihood of attacks.

It is interesting to note, the victor's media hype allowed for, the gratitude shown in Libya for NATO's help in national liberation. As Libya enters a new period it will be interesting to see if any Libyans go join the AQ Jihad.

Small things matter; such as issuing visas, as those stories spread and rarely with any explanation why there is a delay or refusal.

carl
11-02-2011, 01:09 AM
I wonder if some of those SA-24s that went walkabout from Libya might not show up in Syria. There probably isn't a group with greater immediate need than the Syrian protesters/rebels who want to fight it out.

Dayuhan
11-02-2011, 02:05 AM
We should publicly encourage populaces to seek peaceful, but powerful (history shows that non-violent approaches to insurgency garner far more international support and are more successful) approaches to advance their concerns

Non-violent approaches succeed because they typically emerge and grow when despotic governments no longer have the capacity or will to use coercive force against them. What happens when you encourage non-violent resistance against governments that still have the capacity and will to violently suppress resistance, and the people doing the resisting start getting shot, as in Syria? If you don't back them up, that's the last time anyone will ever listen to your encouragement. But does our populace have the will to get involved in other people's rebellions?

If we're going to "encourage" non-violent resistance, are we going to take responsibility for the consequences if people do what we're encouraging them to do?


while privately engaging governments to encourage them listen to their people's reasonable demands and to seriously consider the small changes that history shows can produce such dramatic effects in calming populaces in this stage of dissent.

What sort of "small changes", exactly, do you have in mind?

I don't see any point in "encouraging" actions if we haven't got tangible carrot-and-stick influence to back up the encouragement. Without that it's just words and it accomplishes nothing.

It all sounds very good when portrayed in the most general sense, but I can't see how you propose to translate it into specific policies and specific actions.

Bob's World
11-02-2011, 08:50 AM
Non-violent approaches succeed because they typically emerge and grow when despotic governments no longer have the capacity or will to use coercive force against them. What happens when you encourage non-violent resistance against governments that still have the capacity and will to violently suppress resistance, and the people doing the resisting start getting shot, as in Syria? If you don't back them up, that's the last time anyone will ever listen to your encouragement. But does our populace have the will to get involved in other people's rebellions?

If we're going to "encourage" non-violent resistance, are we going to take responsibility for the consequences if people do what we're encouraging them to do?



What sort of "small changes", exactly, do you have in mind?

I don't see any point in "encouraging" actions if we haven't got tangible carrot-and-stick influence to back up the encouragement. Without that it's just words and it accomplishes nothing.

It all sounds very good when portrayed in the most general sense, but I can't see how you propose to translate it into specific policies and specific actions.

As I recall, the US had plenty of capacity when Dr. King applied non-Violence in the US; same as to the Brits in India and the Soviets in Eastern Europe. Your facts are either flawed, or you are allowing yourself to be confined by definitions of insurgency that only focus on the violent guerrilla warfare phase/tactics.

Even violent insurgencies often have their greatest success when they shift to non-violent tactics.

As to US influence, reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. The US has TONS of influence. Granted, we'd have more if we squandered less, but to keep posting that we have no influence and that none of these leaders in the Middle East care what we think or do is simply groundless opinion. Now, as I say, we do need to change our approaches and apply our influence in more productive ways. Silly sanctions like we levied against Iraq, and now against Iran serve more to alienate populaces and strengthen despots than to produce the effects we hope for. Shouting at despots to step down from a bully pulpit in DC surely does more to steel their resolve. Sitting on our hands as Assad slaughters his populace and threatens to slaughter more if anyone interferes (can't help picturing the scene in Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff takes himself hostage...) sure offers great hope to the Saudis that they will have free license to come down hard when their populace attempts to take actions to the next level as well. Do not judge our influence by our poor application of it in recent years.

As to "taking responsibility for the consequences" of encouraging peaceful tactics, are you serious? It is not like we are calling for them to storm the Bastille and promising fire support and then not providing it at the last minute. We need make no such promises of direct support at all, even a promise of moral support and a willingness to work with whatever government might emerge is better than our our current course of "wait and see."

You make a couple of dangerous underestimations:

1. That of the power, will and influence of the U.S.;

2. That of the power, will and influence of an oppressed populace.

Others have made these same flawed assessments, and have not faired well for doing so.

carl
11-02-2011, 01:27 PM
Mr. Jones:

Aren't you buttressing Dayuhan's argument when you use examples such as the US gov, the British Gov and the Soviets of the late 80s? Citing the actions of two liberal democracies and a tired out, broke tyranny don't make your case very well. Your formula applied to a really tough place like North Korea is a recipe for mass suicide.

Bob's World
11-02-2011, 03:22 PM
Mr. Jones:

Aren't you buttressing Dayuhan's argument when you use examples such as the US gov, the British Gov and the Soviets of the late 80s? Citing the actions of two liberal democracies and a tired out, broke tyranny don't make your case very well. Your formula applied to a really tough place like North Korea is a recipe for mass suicide.

No, his comment as I understood it was that non-violent approaches to insurgency only work where the government lacks the capacity to counter effectively with violence to force their will. The reality is that governments with tremendous physical capacity to counter insurgency have and will react to non-violent approaches.

For one, it is much easier to justify the use of state violence against the populace when the populace employs violence against the state first. Violent insurgents do not garner much support at home or abroad compared to non-violent insurgents.

Another important factor is that when faced with non-violence the government finds it easier to compromise without losing face. There is not "we lost the war so must submit"; but rather the ability to simply concede that they were wrong, make adjustments and move forward.

The Soviets had all the capacity in the world to turn Eastern Europe into a slaughterhouse, yet thankfully made the decision not to resist. That was not the most likely decision by a long shot. Presumably Mr Gorbachev determined that the costs (of all types) were not worth the benefits of maintaining the status quo. Certainly when I talk to Brits it was very much a cost/benefit analysis that drove their decision process in compressing the Empire and creating the Common Wealth.

Bottom line is that the employment of violent tactics by either the state or the populace is a choice, and does not define insurgency. Once one side goes violent it is hard for the other to avoid, but certainly for the populace it lends a credibility to their agenda that creates far greater challenges to most states than acts of violence do.

carl
11-02-2011, 03:58 PM
But didn't Dayuhan's comment talk about no longer having the capacity OR the will? If the despotic government doesn't have the will to shoot people down in the street, their physical capability doesn't matter. The Soviets didn't have the will in the late 80s but they had it in the decades prior. Liberal democracies in the 20th century never showed much will to shoot down people in the streets. The Kim family in North Korea has the will and any resistance there of any kind will get you killed.

Bob's World
11-02-2011, 06:34 PM
We like to throw that "Lack the will" phrase around lately when others don't act that the way we'd like them to. Kind of like playground taunting, questioning one's courage to act. Fact is that most state are fairly pragmatic and do what they think will be best for them in the long run if they can get away with it. Simple Cost/Benefit analysis. Violence is only one way to raise the "costs" for a state. Populaces have options, and smart populaces employ those options. Perhaps they convince the state of additional future benefits of changing, or they leverage other types of costs in form of reputation, productivity, etc.

Most of us go through our daily business and rarely consider "resort to violence" as our go to move when confronted with a problem. Some states fall into that role, and many insurgent movements do as well. There are usually options, and violence is usually a choice. Not always, but usually. The facts are there for those who care to do 5 minutes of research, but those populaces who ultimately adopt non-violent tactics are the ones who have been the most successful in attaining their goals in getting a government to evolve that has shut off all legal options for evoking such change.

carl
11-02-2011, 07:22 PM
I don't understand. Are you dismissing the importance of "will", i.e. the willingness of a regime to violently kill people when confronted with resistance as a factor in determining whether non-violent attempts by the populace to change the regime or policies of the regime will work? I don't think you can do that. What most people or regimes will do is not important when trying to determine what a particular regime will do. If a particular regime is quite willing to cut 'em all down and not give a fig about what the world thinks, that makes a real difference as to whether a non-violent approach will work.

You are too casual when saying things like "Populaces have options...". Some have no options at all. That is why I keep bringing up North Korea. What are their options, other than conform or die?

Bob's World
11-02-2011, 07:26 PM
Not dismissing will, merely noting that it is an overplayed concept in recent years.

For example, GIRoA does not lack the will to deal with the Taliban, they just do not see it as being in their interest to do so. Or in other words, they see greater benefit in maintaining the status quo than they do in effectively seeking resoultion of the disagreement. We blind ourselves to appreciating interests from their perspective, so we chalk it up as "lack of will." We do that a lot, and we are typically wrong.

jmm99
11-02-2011, 07:29 PM
have a pretty good track record across the spectrum of strong democracies, weak democracies and even weak autocracies - e.g., thread Threat or Opportunity: non-violent protest? (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?p=115882&highlight=gene+sharp#post115882) (links to Gene Sharp and Albert Einstein Institute publications, here (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=115882&postcount=2) & here (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=115895&postcount=3)).

However, bring a strong autocracy (such as Stalinist USSR) into the equation and non-violent protest becomes a self-inflicted death sentence. The strong state security apparatus of a strong autocracy will simply kill you.

The only state in a position to do anything about Syria is Turkey - if the Syrian Freedom Army were more than an illusion, Turkish "volunteers", etc.

Regards

Mike

Ken White
11-02-2011, 07:57 PM
Not dismissing will, merely noting that it is an overplayed concept in recent years...We blind ourselves to appreciating interests from their perspective, so we chalk it up as "lack of will." We do that a lot, and we are typically wrong.in others -- and ourselves, on occasion. Lack of interest does not equate to lack of will and it generally is predicated on a more realistic cost:benefit ratio...

carl
11-02-2011, 08:40 PM
Mr. Jones:

However you call it-will, choice, cost-to-benefit calculation etc., if a regime is going to kill people if they resist non-violently and have the ability to do it and don't care what the rest of the world thinks, non-violence is a "self-inflicted death sentence."

I ask you a question about a specific country. Your position as I understand it is outlined by the following quote of yours.

"We should publicly encourage populaces to seek peaceful, but powerful (history shows that non-violent approaches to insurgency garner far more international support and are more successful) approaches to advance their concerns; while privately engaging governments to encourage them listen to their people's reasonable demands and to seriously consider the small changes that history shows can produce such dramatic effects in calming populaces in this stage of dissent."

Now, would that work if applied to North Korea?

Fuchs
11-02-2011, 09:43 PM
Regimes fall to insurrection when they're ripe to fall - no matter armed or unarmed insurrection.

A regime that has a very elaborate and effective surveillance and police state such as North Korea and is backed up by ideology is very, very difficult to dislodge because it's very, very entrenched.

The East German and Polish way of shaking such a regime off was to use the institutions of what Germans call Zivilgesellschaft (civil society?). Namely, they relied on churches.
The Poles were greatly reinforced by knowing that the Pope was one of them and the Eastern Germans used churches as rallying point for their weekly Monday demonstrations for a reason.

On top of that their oppression was founded on the reinsurance that the Soviet Red Army would assist in crushing insurrections - but that guarantee went away in the Gorbachev era and the people knew it. From that point it wasn't such a great leap towards shaking off the fear and break the state organ's morale any more.

North Korea is different in many ways. Their regime appears to be stable, not ripe for collapse.
Neither armed nor peaceful insurrection appears to have promise there right now.

Dayuhan
11-02-2011, 11:49 PM
As I recall, the US had plenty of capacity when Dr. King applied non-Violence in the US; same as to the Brits in India and the Soviets in Eastern Europe. Your facts are either flawed, or you are allowing yourself to be confined by definitions of insurgency that only focus on the violent guerrilla warfare phase/tactics.

I think you'll find that in each case where non-violent resistance succeeds, one of two things happens. Either the regime decides that it won't use unrestricted violence against the resistance (call it lack of will, lack of desire, whatever) or the regime tries to use unrestricted violence but the armed forces refuse to carry out the order.

If the regime is willing to use unrestricted violence and its armed forces are willing to do it, the resistance is either wiped out or goes underground and takes up arms. Look at Syria, in a vain and transient attempt to get back to the thread topic. Unless Assad's armed forces turn against him, non-violence is simply not going to work.


As to US influence, reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. The US has TONS of influence. Granted, we'd have more if we squandered less, but to keep posting that we have no influence and that none of these leaders in the Middle East care what we think or do is simply groundless opinion.

Over whom, exactly, do we have influence, and what form does this influence take?

Influence is carrots and sticks, the ability to withhold positive incentives or impose negative ones. Any attempt to "encourage" action that isn't backed by those real, tangible, incentives is irrelevant and does little beyond underscoring our impotence. If we urge and encourage, get ignored, and do nothing, what does that achieve?

"Intangible influence" is an oxymoron. If it isn't tangible, it isn't influence. Nobody out there cares what we say or what we want: if we don't have the will or capacity to back up the words with meaningful action, what's the point in saying the words?


Sitting on our hands as Assad slaughters his populace and threatens to slaughter more if anyone interferes (can't help picturing the scene in Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff takes himself hostage...) sure offers great hope to the Saudis that they will have free license to come down hard when their populace attempts to take actions to the next level as well. Do not judge our influence by our poor application of it in recent years.

Ok, back to Syria: what would you have us do? What influence do toy want to wield, and how, and to what ends?


As to "taking responsibility for the consequences" of encouraging peaceful tactics, are you serious? It is not like we are calling for them to storm the Bastille and promising fire support and then not providing it at the last minute. We need make no such promises of direct support at all, even a promise of moral support and a willingness to work with whatever government might emerge is better than our our current course of "wait and see."

So we encourage people to resist but tell them that if they follow our advice and the merde comes down on them, they're on their own. That sounds pretty meaningless. "Moral support" means squat when you're unarmed and getting shot.


You make a couple of dangerous underestimations:

1. That of the power, will and influence of the U.S.;

2. That of the power, will and influence of an oppressed populace.

Others have made these same flawed assessments, and have not faired well for doing so.

I think you're underestimating some things as well... like our capacity to make a mess, especially when we stick our noses into other people's business without accurately assessing the practical influence we can bring to bear in a given situation, the potential for unintended adverse consequences, and a number of other things. We haven't always fared well when we've done that before, and I don't expect that to change.

jmm99
11-03-2011, 02:04 AM
From VOA, Arab League: Syria Accepts Plan to Curb Crackdown (http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/11/02/arab-league-syria-accepts-plan-to-curb-crackdown/) (2 Nov 2011 at 8:50 pm):


The Arab League says the Syrian government has accepted a plan to curtail its nearly eight-month crackdown on dissent.

The proposal demands that Syrian authorities immediately withdraw security forces from the streets, stop violence against demonstrators and release all detainees jailed since protests began – a figure estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Officials say that once Damascus takes these first steps, talks with the Syrian opposition can begin within two weeks. It is still unclear whether talks will occur in Cairo, as the plan stipulates, or in Damascus.

Opposition representatives based outside Syria said Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad's government had lost all credibility. They said even if the opposition Syrian National Council accepts the Arab League plan, protesters and activists would reject it. ...

More details from VOA here (http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/11/02/details-of-arab-leagues-plan-for-syria/) and here (http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/11/02/details-of-arab-leagues-plan-for-syria/).

From the Wash Post Editorial Board (several hours ago), the material question: Can the Arab League and Turkey stop the slaughter in Syria? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/turkeys-opportunity-to-take-a-stand-against-syria/2011/11/01/gIQAGjkEgM_story.html)


If there is to be such protection, a pivotal player will be Turkey, which is reportedly already sheltering leaders of a rebel Syrian army (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-turkey-defectors-20111102,0,6082244.story) in a refugee camp. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is furious with Mr. Assad, whom he had cultivated for years, for ignoring Turkey’s pleas to stop the violence, and his government has said that it is preparing to impose sanctions (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f1438150-049e-11e1-ac2a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1cSmJN24c). Even “targeted” Turkish economic sanctions, as promised by its foreign minister, could help peel away the support that the regime still has from the Syrian business community.

Turkey could also formally guarantee protection along the border for civilians fleeing the regime as well as for defecting soldiers. And if that is not sufficient, it could carve out a buffer zone inside Syria, protected by a no-fly zone. As a NATO member, Turkey should enjoy the alliance’s backing if Syria responds belligerently.

President Obama reportedly enjoys a good relationship with Mr. Erdogan and has already spoken to him at length about Syria. Now would be a good time to press for a robust Turkish response to Mr. Assad’s crimes — and offer assurance that the United States will support a Turkish effort to protect Syrian civilians.

The ball seems very much in Ankara's court.

Regards

Mike

ganulv
11-03-2011, 04:20 AM
The East German and Polish way of shaking such a regime off was to use the institutions of what Germans call Zivilgesellschaft (civil society?). Namely, they relied on churches.
Gemeinschaft and gesellschaft typically get glossed as ‘community’ and ‘society’ in the U.S. if glossed at all. I suspect that the relationship between the state and gesellschaften is far, far more complex in Syria than it ever was in the GDR.

Bob's World
11-03-2011, 11:53 AM
Mr. Jones:

However you call it-will, choice, cost-to-benefit calculation etc., if a regime is going to kill people if they resist non-violently and have the ability to do it and don't care what the rest of the world thinks, non-violence is a "self-inflicted death sentence."

I ask you a question about a specific country. Your position as I understand it is outlined by the following quote of yours.

"We should publicly encourage populaces to seek peaceful, but powerful (history shows that non-violent approaches to insurgency garner far more international support and are more successful) approaches to advance their concerns; while privately engaging governments to encourage them listen to their people's reasonable demands and to seriously consider the small changes that history shows can produce such dramatic effects in calming populaces in this stage of dissent."

Now, would that work if applied to North Korea?

From what little I have seen of the North Korean populace, there is little indicator that they are dissatisfied (currently) with their situation. When one controls information, one can control the populace. So, I suspect in many ways your question is moot, as insurgent causation is a mix of governmental policy and action as perceived by the populace. Currently North Korean popular perceptions appear to be largely acceptive of their fate. I suspect this will change in Korea as the populace there becomes more informed, and at that point, yes, I believe that such approaches will be insturmental to thier ultimate revolution of governance as well.

Popular non-violence is often met with governmental violence. But governments do not fare well in the court of public opinion when such clashes occur. We all know of Kent State for this very reason. We all appreciate the power of a lone Chinese citizen standing and staring down a Chinese tank.

The reality is that it typically takes a mix of violent and non-violent approaches when the government clings doggedly to a status quo that is no longer relevant in the eyes of their populace, but it is the unique power of non-violent resistance that sways domestic and foreign support to that of the revolution. The revolutionary remains the illegal actor and cannot escape that status, but once he attains the moral high ground he becomes a force of emense power.

It appears such shifts may be taking place as Turkey (who began their own revolutionary journey over a century ago, while Syria was a province and not a foreign land) weighs in. European powers peeled Syria off and retarded its social and political progress for their own interests. It is moving again, and it is appropriate that Turkey reach out to help stabilize that movement.

Dayuhan
11-03-2011, 12:45 PM
From what little I have seen of the North Korean populace, there is little indicator that they are dissatisfied (currently) with their situation. When one controls information, one can control the populace. So, I suspect in many ways your question is moot, as insurgent causation is a mix of governmental policy and action as perceived by the populace. Currently North Korean popular perceptions appear to be largely acceptive of their fate. I suspect this will change in Korea as the populace there becomes more informed, and at that point, yes, I believe that such approaches will be insturmental to thier ultimate revolution of governance as well.

I think the North Korean populace is plenty dissatisfied. I also think they are very very scared, and for good reason.


Popular non-violence is often met with governmental violence. But governments do not fare well in the court of public opinion when such clashes occur. We all know of Kent State for this very reason. We all appreciate the power of a lone Chinese citizen standing and staring down a Chinese tank.

Remember how the Tiananmen incident ended up, please. The power of the lone citizen standing in front of the tank didn't amount to much when the order to fire was given and followed. Maybe the government didn't fare will in the court of public opinion, but the government is still there and very much in power. The demonstrators are not there, and many of them are dead. That's what happens when non-violent methods are brought to bear against a government with the will and capacity to violently suppress them.

I would appreciate it if we could, for the sake of accuracy, cease referring to "a populace", "the populace", "their populace" and all other constructions that treat a population as a unitary entity that acts and thinks as one. It's rarely if ever the case.

I'm still waiting for a specific recommendation for a policy response to the situation in Syria...

Bob's World
11-03-2011, 01:07 PM
Yes, most Westerners "think" the North Korean populace (oops, too vague?) is "plenty dissatisfied". Certainly we would be if we were all transported to that nation and asked to live under that government. Their populace, however, was not transported there, has little awareness of how things are elsewhere, and we really have few accurate measures of how they actually feel about their situation.

You miss the point of the power of the image transmitted around the globe of the man facing the tank if you only measure it by the immediate tactical effect on Chinese reaction to reisistance. The strategic effect is what I speak of, on a global scale, and such things take time. Even revolutions are really little more than rapid periods of action within a much longer, slower process of cultural, social, political evolution. China is changing and the government there has no more ability to stop that there than governments do anywhere. Governments who persist too long in such efforts typically fall. Fear is indeed a powerful tool in keeping a populace in line, but at some point action overcomes fear. Every government knows they are little more than a lone man with a six shooter holding back the mob. This works until it doesn't work, at which point the mob wins (minus 3-6 who sacrifice for the whole).

As to what the President would focus on in his conversation with Assad? That is hardly worth speculating on here. The key is that he understand the dymanic at work and that he works to convince Assad that his Cost/Benefit equaition has changed, and that by changing his approaches from what "worked" (suppressed, not cured) for his father will he the son exceed his father as the one who leads Syria to a new future, rather than merely being one of a long line of leaders dedicated to holding Syria to an increasingly obsolete past.

carl
11-03-2011, 05:16 PM
From what little I have seen of the North Korean populace, there is little indicator that they are dissatisfied (currently) with their situation.

I don't know exactly what to think about a statement like this. It leaves me slack jawed in amazement. What it reminds me of most are the various journalists and other notables who visited the USSR in the 30s and reported back to everybody how good things were there. Please go to Human Rights Watch or the blog freekorea.us and read just a little bit.

By way of analogy, if the inmates of a super max prison were never allowed visitation or contact with anyone outside the walls, it still would be safe to say they didn't like things much.

(I wish I could have expressed myself less vigorously but I couldn't think how.)

Bob's World
11-03-2011, 08:03 PM
People are not born, live and die in prison. It will always be the bad place they were sent to by "the man," who also prevents them from going back to where they want to be.

The vast majority of North Koreans were born there, and I suspect, have a very skewed perspective of what things are like elsewhere; addionally, I suspect they also are told that things that are obviously bad are the fault of others outside the state. To compare their situation to my own and judge them to be on the verge of revolt is to totally discount the critical truth about insurgency: It is not poor conditions, or lack of government services that creates an insurgent populace; it is how the popualace FEELS about their situation and who the blame that creates an insurgent populace.

It is just like the US to go by these reports you cite to launch some humanitarian relief intervention to liberate the people of North Korea from their oppression, only to soon find ourselves "slack-jawed with amazement" when we find ourselves neck deep in a resistance insurgency against our presence.

I hope things are better some day for the people of North Korea, and I suspect some day they will be. But I do not presume to translate that into an assessment that this is a populace prepared to revolt, or that they would be pleased for someone to come and save them from their plight. Both might be true, but we have no accurate assessment to base that upon.

carl
11-03-2011, 10:50 PM
Mr. Jones:

Nobody judged the North Koreans to be on the verge of revolt. I stated it was evident that very many of them were, to put it mildly, unhappy. You then converted that into something about whether they were on the verge of revolt, and for good measure threw in something about an expedition to liberate them from their oppression. Where did that come from?!

You missed the point of the analogy. I used super max prisons for a reason. Life in a super max is so terrible that how the inmate ended up there is immaterial, or it is for the purposes of the analogy.

I may seem to be belaboring a minor point (I can just see somebody using that quote now...), but this isn't a minor point. It is hard to take seriously an argument by somebody who can make such astounding statements about North Korea. Please, take a little time to read the North Korea reporting by Human Rights Watch or just about anybody else who covers that hellish place.

To get back to my original question, let's say for the sake of argument that many of the North Korean people were dissatisfied with things and wanted their gov to change. If that were the case, would your formula work?

Dayuhan
11-04-2011, 01:27 AM
Yes, most Westerners "think" the North Korean populace (oops, too vague?) is "plenty dissatisfied". Certainly we would be if we were all transported to that nation and asked to live under that government. Their populace, however, was not transported there, has little awareness of how things are elsewhere, and we really have few accurate measures of how they actually feel about their situation.

How about this measure:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/04/north-korea-political-prisoners-amnesty


North Korea holds 200,000 political prisoners, says Amnesty

Report by human rights group cites ex-inmates and defectors' accounts of torture and executions in series of camps

North Korea's political prison camps have expanded substantially over the last decade and hold 200,000 people...

Weren't you telling me, not so long ago, that Saudi arrests of dissidents (on a far smaller scale) were evidence that "the Saudi populace" was in a state of insurgency? I'm sure there's a portion of the North Korean populace that really believes the State line and is content with their daily cockroach and 4 grains of rice. There's probably a portion that vigorously supports the state (probably those that are getting a rat and a half-cup of rice as the daily ration, and thus feeling immensely privileged). There's also apparently a few hundred thousand that are troublesome enough to lock up, and that suggests that there are a whole bunch more who are a long way from happy but are understandably reluctant to be locked up. Life in North Korea outside the camps is bad enough that I wouldn't want to speculate on what it's like inside.


You miss the point of the power of the image transmitted around the globe of the man facing the tank if you only measure it by the immediate tactical effect on Chinese reaction to reisistance. The strategic effect is what I speak of, on a global scale, and such things take time. Even revolutions are really little more than rapid periods of action within a much longer, slower process of cultural, social, political evolution. China is changing and the government there has no more ability to stop that there than governments do anywhere. Governments who persist too long in such efforts typically fall. Fear is indeed a powerful tool in keeping a populace in line, but at some point action overcomes fear. Every government knows they are little more than a lone man with a six shooter holding back the mob. This works until it doesn't work, at which point the mob wins (minus 3-6 who sacrifice for the whole).

Sooner or later you have to back off from the grand global scale and deal with the specific conditions that prevail in specific situations... if we don't, there's really very little to discuss. The fact is that non-violent resistance failed at Tiananmen, and it's failing in Syria today. Unless a substantial portion of Assad's armed forces switches sides - and there's very little sign that it's likely - this is unlikely to be resolved on the side of the portion of the populace that's protesting.


As to what the President would focus on in his conversation with Assad? That is hardly worth speculating on here.

That's not what I asked about. I asked about policy options re Syria under current conditions, not about our conversation with Assad.


The key is that he understand the dymanic at work and that he works to convince Assad that his Cost/Benefit equaition has changed, and that by changing his approaches from what "worked" (suppressed, not cured) for his father will he the son exceed his father as the one who leads Syria to a new future, rather than merely being one of a long line of leaders dedicated to holding Syria to an increasingly obsolete past.

What good does it do to "understand the dynamic at work" if that understanding doesn't lead to practical, viable policy options? You say you understand the dynamic, so what policy options does that understanding lead to?

I do not believe that we are going to "convince" Assad of anything. Why would he listen to us? We're pursuing our interests, he's pursuing his. They are very different. He also doesn't like or trust us, and he's well aware that we are not going to back up our words with action.

Declaring that we want to keep Assad in power and persuade him to pursue enlightened reform is not going to win friends among the rebellious Syrians, who want him gone and don't believe (justifiably) that he will ever produce more than nominal reform.

Bob's World
11-04-2011, 11:48 AM
Saudi despotism vs. North Korean despotism, and the impacts upon their respective populaces. Probably should be a separate thread that people spend some time thinking about.

Saudis are our allies, so that is good despotism, North Koreans are our enemies, so that is bad despotism. (I bang my head on my desk thinking that many actually believe this to be a sensible position to take)

Both governments have a pretty free hand at making thousands of arrests of those who dare to dissent with the official state position (even though both define "the state" as the views of a single, self-annointed family). Arrests without warrant showing probable cause; held without charge or habeus corpus. Most simply disappear.

Here is a critical difference. It is one of knowledge and control.

1. A populace drifts into conditions of insurgency (the fire is set, but not necessarily lit) when they come to perceive that they have lost control of the government (rather than the more widely held governmental view that insurgency is due to the government losing control of the populace...)

2. A government that can control information among their populace can control their populace, a government that cannot must acutally evolve to become responsive to their populace and employ influence and provide value.

The simple fact is that the Saudis can no longer control information to their populace, while my understanding is that the North Korean government remains fairly effective in that regard. So, when North Koreans are treated harshly or unfairly by their government there is no relative scale to judge that against. It just is what it is. This is increasingly not the case in countries like Saudi Arabia, and as our good friend Mr. Assad is learning, in Syria either. Again, it is not necessarily how the government treats the populace, it is how the populace feels about how the government treats them that matters most.

Assad is learning that even in his father's day one could get away with far more than one can today. The world is evolving rapidly in regards to information technology, and this is having a powerful effect on empowering populaces and in turn, changing the conditions within which governments must govern.

As countries such as North Korea become more connected, they will in turn become less stable. Likewise, already connected countries that cling to outmoded despotic models of governance (as assessed by their own popualces, our US and Western metrics are interesting, but not the ones that matter) are finding their rule faced with ever-growing internal dissent and popular challenge.

One can look at this in terms of "insurgency," or for those who see that as too military of a lens, one can look at this in terms of "sovereignty." From a recent product of mine:

"Sovereignty is a concept that varies by culture and over time. Sovereignty always exists within the populace, but to varying degrees it is delegated to the state to exercise and preserve. What the populace perceives is de facto (reality, or in fact), what the state officially proclaims is de jure (legal, or as defined by law). Where the two are in synch there is greater chance for stability, where the two diverge there is greater chance for instability."

There is a growing divergence of de facto perceptions and de jure definitions of sovereignty in many places, but particularly in the Middle East. No amount of increased security is apt to bridge those gaps, it will require the governments to evolve in terms of how they define their soverign duties as delegated to them by the populace to exercise on their behalf. From that same product:

"Perhaps one has a right (rather than duty) to control what is within their borders, but not a duty to control the border or what happens within it. The real duty is to protect the populace within that border from what comes across it. Efforts that become increasingly expansive, expensive and obtrusive in efforts to control are often counterproductive to the PRIMARY duty to the populace."

Governments must reassess what is their duty, and what is their right; what is it that their populace expects from them, and most importantly what it is they must control, and what it is they must merely influence to best serve their primary function of protecting the populace.

For governments such as the United States, with vast foreign interests, it is also critical to better appreciate where our sovereign rights and duties END, and where those of others BEGIN. Crossing those lines on occasion is necessary. Crossing them as a matter of course is dangerous and ultimately counterproductive.

Dayuhan
11-04-2011, 12:12 PM
Saudis are our allies, so that is good despotism, North Koreans are our enemies, so that is bad despotism. (I bang my head on my desk thinking that many actually believe this to be a sensible position to take)

Who has said the Saudis are "good despots? It's a nation with which we have active trade relations. Their purchases of arms are very useful to our defense industry. It would be very inconvenient to us if they were to cease producing oil or produce a reduced amount. It would be very very inconvenient if the oil they control were to fall into the hands of a directly hostile power. How does "good" or "bad" enter into any of that?

It's not as if the Saudis are a client state, or a dependent, or as if we can control or affect the way they deal with the various factions of their populace.


The simple fact is that the Saudis can no longer control information to their populace, while my understanding is that the North Korean government remains fairly effective in that regard. So, when North Koreans are treated harshly or unfairly by their government there is no relative scale to judge that against. It just is what it is. This is increasingly not the case in countries like Saudi Arabia, and as our good friend Mr. Assad is learning, in Syria either. Again, it is not necessarily how the government treats the populace, it is how the populace feels about how the government treats them that matters most.

Here we go again with "the populace". Whether we're talking about Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Syria, there is no "the populace". There are people who oppose the regime. There are people who support the regime. There are people who oppose the regime with deeply varied and often incompatible interests, desires, and objectives. there are lots of people who are neither supportive nor opposed.

200,000 in prison camps suggests that the North Korean control of information is not as complete or as effective as you suggest. The lack of active opposition (not that we'd know if it was there) suggests that efforts to scare the people into submission have been successful. The Saudis do a good bit of scaring themselves, though they have the added advantage of having produced enough prosperity that a large slice of the populace is more afraid of disorder, and possibly losing what they've got, than they are of tyranny.

When was Assad ever "our good friend"?


Assad is learning that even in his father's day one could get away with far more than one can today. The world is evolving rapidly in regards to information technology, and this is having a powerful effect on empowering populaces and in turn, changing the conditions within which governments must govern.

As I've said before, I think the impact of information technology on these situations is largely speculative and undemonstrated, and way overrated. Revolutions occurred before these technologies existed: people find ways to get information, and to communicate.


Governments must reassess what is their duty, and what is their right; what is it that their populace expects from them, and most importantly what it is they must control, and what it is they must merely influence to best serve their primary function of protecting the populace.

For governments such as the United States, with vast foreign interests, it is also critical to better appreciate where our sovereign rights and duties END, and where those of others BEGIN. Crossing those lines on occasion is necessary. Crossing them as a matter of course is dangerous and ultimately counterproductive.

As I've said before, this all sounds lovely in the abstract, but where does it get us in terms of actual, practical policy... in Syria, or anywhere else?

I asked this question before, trying to get back to Syria... an answer might be edifying:


What good does it do to "understand the dynamic at work" if that understanding doesn't lead to practical, viable policy options? You say you understand the dynamic, so what policy options does that understanding lead to?

Bob's World
11-04-2011, 12:30 PM
Dayuhan,

You worry about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I for one, have little interest in such debates. The more important insights are not found in the immaterial details of such arguments.

Cheers!

Bob

Dayuhan
11-04-2011, 10:24 PM
You worry about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I for one, have little interest in such debates. The more important insights are not found in the immaterial details of such arguments

I worry about translating deep abstract ideas into actual practical implementable policy because until you get a policy out of it the deep thinking really isn't doing you any good. If it doesn't pay off where the rubber hits the road, how is it helping you?

I have to wonder if the disinterest in discussing the practical application of these ideas stems partially from the sense that the ideas might not hold up so well when practically applied.

Bob's World
11-05-2011, 12:15 PM
Blank round noted.

No, I am not concerned that the concepts do not stand up to the harsh light of reality, I just have come to learn that no example is adequate to satisfy your disagreement with the concepts I promote.

I will be the first to say that I do not offer "easy" or "simple" answers to hard problems; only that I attempt to attain an understand of the nature of such problems and offer a context that will allow for the development of a solution that has some hope of ultimately getting to the ends we seek. Our problem is not that our guys on the ground are not smart, capable and effective at what they do, our problem is that we apply a flawed concept of the problems we send them out to deal with, and design operations around those flawed concepts based on lessons learned form our historic perspectives of operations that have little validity in the current environment.

Assad is out of touch with his people, and out of date with his tactics. Ultimately he will fail because of that. Sure, he may suppress the movement for some period of time as his father did, but the turn is getting tighter and tighter on the return of such resistance. History tells us that certain approaches can suppress these problems. History also tells us that other approaches can resolve these problems in more enduring ways. We are hindered in that we have binned those two aspects of the history of the same dynamic into two distinct buckets. One bucket of military-led, insurgency warfare; and another bucket of civilian led civil disturbance. In either case, where the government evolves to address the concerns of the populace enduring effects occur, where the government applies various tactics to merely put down the disturbance/revolt a temporary suppression occurs.

I am not an Edison or a Jobs or a Wright. I don't invent this stuff. I am just an observer who thinks about what he observes and attempts to understand things that make little sense.

Syria is Assad's job to succeed or fail in, and currently he is failing both himself and his populace. Sad. The people are moving forward in their social evolution and seeking reasonable accommodations in governance to reflect that evolution. In essence, they seek to renegotiate their social contract with the government. They seek to re-balance what rights and duties they have vested in the government and which ones they retain in themselves. This does not mean US approaches to that division are the right ones for Syria, surely they are not. But the US has been down this path with some success. Turkey is also 100 years down this path with some success.

Helping leaders like Assad to seek and implement the right types of adaptations to stay in synch with their respective populaces should be a fundamental aspect of US foreign policy. Not pushing US fundamentalism, but rather working to preserve US rights for US citizens by recognizing that we do not need to shape the governments of others to either answer to us or to look and act like us; merely to be willing to work with us. We have our own evolution to deal with.

I doubt many Americans can see that US foreign policy is as out of touch with the populaces of the world as Assad's domestic policy is with the populaces of Syria. Or as Jesus would say, we cannot see the dust in his eye for the plank in our own. We too need to evolve, and we too are not listening to what others are telling us. Governmental behavior is very much like addict behavior in this regard.

But as I say, there are countless ways to operationalize this change of approach just as their are countless ways to operationalize any operation. The key is to understand the fundamentals and to establish the proper framework first, and then to allow the executor to proceed in the manner that works best for him. Do not confuse my refusal to argue tactics for my inability to devise tactical approaches, I just don't see the value in it.

Bill Moore often gets frustrated with my focus on getting the strategic context right when I weigh in on a discussion about some tactical aspect of these problems with an observation about the importance of getting the strategic context right first. Guilty as charged. There are thousands to strike at those leaves and branches, do not let it bother you so that I prefer to stand over here alone and strike at the roots. The roots need striking, and someone needs to do it.

(I'd like to say this is my only vice, and to leave me to it, but sadly I have plenty of other vices to keep it company.)

jmm99
11-05-2011, 07:14 PM
From the BBC, Syria: Homs military attacks continue, say activists (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15588250) (4 Nov 2011):


Tanks have been shelling parts of the city, and medics at the main hospital told the BBC more than 100 bodies had arrived in the past two days.

All that does not put paid to the Arab League initiative; but it does suggest that brute force will only be overcome by brute force.

The rest of the story is from the Christian Science Monitor series dealing with the current events in Syria.

Give war a chance (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2011/1104/Give-war-a-chance-Syrian-Army-defectors-want-to-strike-back-at-Assad?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fworld+%28Christian+Sc ience+Monitor+%7C+World%29): Syrian Army defectors want to strike back at Assad. The 'Syrian Free Army,' a group of up to 15,000 defected Syrian soldiers camped in Turkey, is seeking to be recognized as the opposition's military wing (Arthur Bright, Correspondent / November 4, 2011):


He [Col. Riad al-Assad] told Reuters last month that he believes war is the only way to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and end the violence against civilians.

Assad says that the SFA is coordinating opposition troops across Syria, though he did not comment on whether the SFA was conducting cross-border raids from its camps in Turkey. Turkey has formally committed only to humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, though the Telegraph notes that it has provided Assad with a personal security detail and controls access to him through its foreign ministry.

Turkey's support for the SFA further underscores how far Ankara has turned against its southern neighbor. In a commentary for the Christian Science Monitor, Joshua W. Walker writes that Turkey has progressed from silent ally to vocal critic, and is now "leading the push for international action and sanctions against Damascus."

Is Turkey doing this and other things to further "Western goals"; or is it acting in what it considers to be its enlightened self-interest ?

Turkey's rising clout leaves Iran fuming on sidelines of Arab Spring (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1102/Turkey-s-rising-clout-leaves-Iran-fuming-on-sidelines-of-Arab-Spring) - The fast-emerging split between Turkey and Iran has revived a centuries-old rivalry between the Ottomans and the Persians (Scott Peterson, Staff writer / November 2, 2011).


On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the months-long uprising in Syria, calling the 3,000 who have died there at the hands of security forces "martyrs."

"The Syrian people will achieve results from their glorious resistance," Mr. Erdogan said. "Democracy will show its true self in Syria. Justice and freedom will be obtained by the Syrian people by their own will."

Although the Arab League has no fond memories of the Turks, they are Sunni; and the Arabs don't trust the Persians either.

Turkey's bold about-face on Syria (http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/1103/Turkey-s-bold-about-face-on-Syria) - Turkey's support for Syrian insurgents reverses detente with Damascus. Its about-face can reinforce an Arab League agreement with Syria to end violence, and reassure the West of its commitment to NATO values. But is the break an exception, or a broad change in foreign policy? (Joshua W. Walker / November 3, 2011):


By hosting Syrian insurgents and political opposition figures, and by readying harsh unilateral sanctions against Damascus, Turkey’s about-face with Syria signals a potentially significant shift to much stronger support for the democratic Arab awakening.

This situation is a unique opportunity for the US to keep its nose out of the tent; and to allow the Middle East to work out its own solution.

Backgrounders:

Who backs Syria's Assad? Top 4 sources of support (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1005/Who-backs-Syria-s-Assad-Top-4-sources-of-support/Businessmen)

Long road to freedom: Seven reasons why Syrian protesters have so far failed to topple Assad (http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0610/Long-road-to-freedom-Seven-reasons-why-Syrian-protesters-have-so-far-failed-to-topple-Assad/Weakness-and-divisions-in-ranks)

Mod's Note: for both linked articles registration is required.

Regards

Mike

jmm99
11-05-2011, 10:47 PM
David, I believe you; but I get the whole thing (after quite a while loading on a slow ISP) in both links without registration. Haven't the foggiest idea of why.

Regards

Mike

davidbfpo
11-06-2011, 12:03 PM
JMM,

Ah perhaps the registration "wall" is for non-US users? Similar to the problems found when US members try t view BBC TV documentaries?

Dayuhan
11-07-2011, 12:10 AM
I am not concerned that the concepts do not stand up to the harsh light of reality, I just have come to learn that no example is adequate to satisfy your disagreement with the concepts I promote.

That's odd, because I largely agree with the concepts, I just disagree with the way you often propose to apply them.

I quite agree that we shouldn't be installing dictators or enabling them to suppress their populaces. Problems arise, though, when we start imposing those concepts where they don't fit: as in assuming that we sustain dictators that we do not in fact sustain, and assuming that we have influence when in fact we do not.


I will be the first to say that I do not offer "easy" or "simple" answers to hard problems; only that I attempt to attain an understand of the nature of such problems and offer a context that will allow for the development of a solution that has some hope of ultimately getting to the ends we seek.

What I see here is that when it comes down to application, which is the whole point, it always seems to boil down to the penultimate blank rounds of "urge and encourage", us influence where we've none to use. If the understanding doesn't lead to practical, functional policy, what good is it?


Our problem is not that our guys on the ground are not smart, capable and effective at what they do, our problem is that we apply a flawed concept of the problems we send them out to deal with, and design operations around those flawed concepts based on lessons learned form our historic perspectives of operations that have little validity in the current environment.

I'd say our problem is that we put guys on ground we've no reason to be on and assign them tasks totally unrelated to what they are trained and equipped to do.


Assad is out of touch with his people, and out of date with his tactics. Ultimately he will fail because of that. Sure, he may suppress the movement for some period of time as his father did, but the turn is getting tighter and tighter on the return of such resistance. History tells us that certain approaches can suppress these problems. History also tells us that other approaches can resolve these problems in more enduring ways. We are hindered in that we have binned those two aspects of the history of the same dynamic into two distinct buckets. One bucket of military-led, insurgency warfare; and another bucket of civilian led civil disturbance. In either case, where the government evolves to address the concerns of the populace enduring effects occur, where the government applies various tactics to merely put down the disturbance/revolt a temporary suppression occurs.

Possibly so... but since this thread is meant to be about Syria, please apply this understanding to the Syrian situation and suggest what policy we might adopt that would have a chance of achieving productive results.


The people are moving forward in their social evolution and seeking reasonable accommodations in governance to reflect that evolution.

If we're talking about the portion of the populace that's protesting, I think what they;re seeking is Assad's departure. Whether that qualifies as a "reasonable accommodation" would depend on who you ask. I don't see them being satisfied with any resolution that leaves Assad in power, nor do I see Assad and his portion of the populace being satisfied with any resolution that does not leave Assad in power. Not a lot of room for compromise, and continuing violence seems the most likely outcome.


Helping leaders like Assad to seek and implement the right types of adaptations to stay in synch with their respective populaces should be a fundamental aspect of US foreign policy.

I do not think the Disaffected portion of the Syrian populace, or for that matter disaffected Arab populaces in general, would be terribly impressed with any US effort to help Assad "seek and implement the right types of adaptations to stay in synch" with his various populaces. That would be interpreted, quite reasonably, as helping Assad stay in power, since they (and we) know that whatever effort he made to stay in synch would be for show only. How is a preference for keeping Assad in power and an effort to keep him there going to get anyone in synch with the disaffected Syrians?


I doubt many Americans can see that US foreign policy is as out of touch with the populaces of the world as Assad's domestic policy is with the populaces of Syria.

Now we've jumped from generalizing about national populaces to generalizing about a global populace. The US can't even keep in touch with the diverse and conflicting demands of its own populaces, truing to keep in touch with the infinitely more diverse and conflicting demands of every populace in the world is the ultimate exercise in futility.


But as I say, there are countless ways to operationalize this change of approach just as their are countless ways to operationalize any operation. The key is to understand the fundamentals and to establish the proper framework first, and then to allow the executor to proceed in the manner that works best for him. Do not confuse my refusal to argue tactics for my inability to devise tactical approaches, I just don't see the value in it.

What I see there is people who are concerned with application coming back and telling you that the theory has real problems on the application end, and you telling them that you don't want to worry about that, because you just do theory. That's a bit frustrating to people who are concerned with application.

jmm99
11-07-2011, 03:24 AM
From Zaman, Ankara weighs options in Syria stalemate (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-262013-ankara-weighs-options-in-syria-stalemate.html) (6 November 2011, NOAH BLASER , İSTANBUL):


In the wake of last week’s failed bid by the Arab League to halt violence in Syria, Turkey now more than ever may be pressured into creating a humanitarian “buffer zone” in Syria, a form of interventionwhich regional experts say, carries unknown consequences.

“Some form of intervention in Syria will be considered seriously if events worsen and international action is absent.” Middle East expert Oytun Orhan told Sunday’s Zaman on Friday. Orhan, a fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), says that such a development would prove to be a “last choice” for Turkey in an eight-month conflict that has seen Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad crack down against an anti-regime protest movement.

Ankara has sent increasingly clear signals that it would consider such a “last choice” in recent weeks, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu telling the Financial Times in a Tuesday interview that “we hope that there will be no need for [a buffer zone or a no-fly zone] but of course humanitarian issues are important ... protecting citizens is the responsibility of every state.”

The increasing willingness to discuss a limited form of intervention in Syria comes amid widely held expectations that Wednesday’s Arab League cease-fire deal with Syria would fail to stop bloodshed, expectations which seemed to be confirmed when over 20 were reported killed by security forces in the 24 hours following the deal’s announcement. ...

The ideal case for Ankara would be:


While Ankara begins to discuss the possibility of intervention, both experts say that the key to putting more diplomatic pressure on Syria rests with the Arab League. According to Landis, the Arab League will need to “follow the example of Turkey,” condemning the regime after failing to leverage its privileged relations with the regime into reforms.

Landis states that a change in stance from the Arab League will provide the best scenario for gaining a UN condemnation and sanctions, long awaited by Turkey and the West. Once the league condemns Syria, “then all eyes will be focused on China and Russia. Only by strong condemnation from the Arab League will China and Russia be forced into condemning Syria at the UN.”

Such official pressure would be a welcome development for Ankara. “Turkey is hoping for a solution in the UN,” Orhan stated. “Turkey has from the start wanted to solve this crisis diplomatically.”

The development of that best case scenario seems problematic.

Regards

Mike

AdamG
11-16-2011, 10:33 PM
(CNN) -- A fledgling force of Syrian military deserters struck an important government security complex on the outskirts of the capital overnight, a bold strike reflecting the resolve and confidence of the regime's opposition.
The assault came ahead of an Arab League meeting Wednesday to reaffirm a decision to suspend Syria's membership, a decision the group took over the weekend after President Bashar al-Assad's government failed to abide by a proposal to end a brutal crackdown on protesters.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/16/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html

ganulv
11-16-2011, 10:47 PM
http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/16/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html

So…
A) The regime pretends this never happened.
B) It occurs to the regime that its strategy isn’t bearing fruit.
C) The regime freaks the f##k out and takes the gloves off.

The November 8th Frontline (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/syria-undercover/) was not bad at all. You don’t get a huge amount of insight into the social organization of those standing against Assad but there is some good footage. And, hey, investigative journalism, how often do we get to see that in this millenium?

jmm99
11-17-2011, 01:58 AM
D. The Syrian Freedom Army, assisted by Turkish volunteers, crosses the Turkish-Syrian border.

Regards

Mike

AdamG
11-22-2011, 12:47 AM
BEIRUT — Attacks by army defectors are transforming the Syrian uprising into an armed insurgency that threatens to spiral into civil war. The Free Syrian Army holds no territory, appears largely disorganized and is up against a fiercely loyal and cohesive military that will stop at nothing to protect the regime.
Still, without foreign military intervention or significant cracks in President Bashar Assad's iron rule, the rebel group has emerged as the best hope for a growing number of protesters who have all but given up on peaceful resistance.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45390188/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa#.TsrwwGP0vG4

See also
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/111102/syria-free-syrian-army-bashar-al-assad

Dayuhan
11-25-2011, 12:59 AM
Attacks by army defectors are transforming the Syrian uprising into an armed insurgency that threatens to spiral into civil war. The Free Syrian Army holds no territory, appears largely disorganized and is up against a fiercely loyal and cohesive military that will stop at nothing to protect the regime.

Interesting and slightly contradictory... the military is "fiercely loyal and cohesive", yet there are enough defectors to transform the uprising into an armed insurgency.

I wrote somewhere upthread that with foreign intervention out of the picture the only real game-changer I can see is the possibility of large scale defection or refusal to follow orders among the military.

If anyone here has direct experience with the Syrian military, a question: how strong is this loyalty and cohesion, really? Is the loyalty to the government absolute, or is it tempered by loyalty to other members of the same service, with a possibility that units may refuse to engage defectors? To what extent is loyalty to the regime tempered with self interest... meaning is it possible that mid-range officers - the ones who actually command troops - might drop the regime if they conclude that it will fall and they don't want to fall with it.

In many revolutions there's a tipping point where large numbers of people inside the tent conclude that the ship is sinking and they don't want to sink with it. The question is where this tipping point is in the Syrian case. Probably nobody has a really good answer, but it will be interesting to see.

jcustis
11-25-2011, 01:14 AM
To what extent is loyalty to the regime tempered with self interest... meaning is it possible that mid-range officers - the ones who actually command troops - might drop the regime if they conclude that it will fall and they don't want to fall with it.

This is more likely.

Some of the dynamics were mentioned here: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=122733&postcount=56

Dayuhan
11-25-2011, 01:44 AM
A couple of things I wonder about...

Are there units in the Syrian military that are "favored"... given better assignments, better conditions, better equipment, perhaps seen as "elite"? If so, is that "elite" status based on actual competence or on a perception of higher loyalty, maybe selected for regional or family ties?

Are promotions and status based on performance and competence, or on perceived personal loyalty to Assad?

These phenomena (and others) create fault lines that may be invisible until real pressure comes on, but that can create fractures in organizations under pressure. Of course it's risky for an outside power to try to exploit or exaggerate those fault lines, if they exist, but they are worth watching.

I realize that the military is Alawite-dominated, but I wonder how solid that bloc is. More specifically, I wonder if there are a bunch of Captains and Majors (or equivalent in Syrian terms) out there who feel they've been bypassed in favor of less capable but better connected officers. That's a common phenomenon in armies serving dictators (who often fear their own armed forces more than any enemy force), and it creates the kind of fissures that can drive defections when the pressure comes on.

ganulv
11-25-2011, 02:59 AM
I realize that the military is Alawite-dominated, but I wonder how solid that bloc is. More specifically, I wonder if there are a bunch of Captains and Majors (or equivalent in Syrian terms) out there who feel they've been bypassed in favor of less capable but better connected officers.No one would be able to answer those questions better than an old spook. [LINK (http://cachef.ft.com/cms/s/0/656e348c-5af7-11e0-a290-00144feab49a.html#axzz1egJMvFUj)]

jmm99
11-26-2011, 01:34 AM
All from Today's Zaman -

Pressure grows on Syria but world powers divided (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-263872-pressure-grows-on-syria-but-world-powers-divided.html) (25 November 2011, Friday / REUTERS, BEIRUT):


Syria faced a Friday deadline to sign an Arab deal allowing monitors into the country or incur sanctions over its crackdown on protests including halting flights, curbing trade and stopping deals with the central bank.

Arab foreign ministers said in Cairo that unless Syria agreed to let the monitors in to assess progress of an Arab League plan to end eight months of bloodshed, officials would consider imposing sanctions on Saturday.
....
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership two weeks ago, while this week the prime minister of neighbouring Turkey - a NATO member with the military wherewithal to mount a cross-border operation - told Assad to quit and said he should be mindful of the fate of fallen dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Libya's deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.

EU says it looks to Turkey to help stabilize Mideast (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-263861-eu-says-it-looks-to-turkey-to-help-stabilize-mideast.html) (25 November 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL):


The president of the European Parliament has said the European Union is looking to Turkey to help stabilize the Middle East, shaken by instability and uprisings since the start of this year.

Jerzy Buzek, who is visiting Turkey this week, told Turkish deputies in Parliament on Thursday that he knows from his own experiences that a falling dictatorship is both dangerous and unpredictable, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is threatened by an eight-month uprising that claimed nearly 4,000 lives. He said across the east Mediterranean, not just in Syria, there are multiple flashpoints and that the 27-nation bloc is looking to Turkey to help stabilize the region.

He has said in recent months that Turkey’s leadership has stressed Turkey’s support for the struggle for freedom across North Africa and the Middle East and that many in the Middle East regard Turkey as a source of inspiration as a successfully modernizing society. He also said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first Muslim leader to tell Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to step down.

“Your leaders have travelled to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia to promote the adoption of a constitution that secures secularism. And, more recently, you opened your doors, and hearts, to the Syrian opposition,” he said. Buzek added that Turkey has a lot to offer the international community, stating that it is still essential that Turkey and the EU work together to better coordinate their foreign policies.

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu: Turkey can no longer tolerate Syrian bloodshed (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-263870-foreign-minister-davutoglu-turkey-can-no-longer-tolerate-syrian-bloodshed.html) (25 November 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN WITH WIRES, İSTANBUL):


The Turkish foreign minister said on Friday that Turkey can tolerate no more bloodshed in Syria and is ready to take action along with Arab powers if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fails to take steps towards ending his crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

At a joint press conference Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi, after a tête-à-tête meeting in İstanbul on Friday, Davutoğlu said he hoped the Syrian government would respond in a positive way to a plan by the Arab League to resolve the conflict. “Today is an historic decision day for Syria. It must open its doors to observers,” he added.

“If it doesn't, there are steps we can take in consultation with the Arab league” he declared, adding: “I want to say clearly we have no more tolerance for the bloodshed in Syria. The attitude of friendly and fraternal countries on this subject is clear."

but, Turkish military intervention was ruled out:


Turkey also underlined that an uprising in Syria is its neighbor’s internal affair and that it will not allow any state to militarily intervene in Syria, ruling out any possibility that Turkey will become militarily involved. “We won’t send soldiers [to Syria], won’t intervene and won’t allow or create conditions for others to intervene,” Bülent Arınç, Turkey’s deputy prime minister told a local TV station in Bursa. Arınç, who is also the government’s spokesman, said any foreign intervention will create divisions not only in Syria but across the region as well. He added that incidents in Syria are developing along ethnic lines and that sectarianism is also playing a role.

Arınç’s remarks came at a time when Syria’s armed opposition groups asked Turkey to create a buffer zone to shelter anti-regime fighters. Lt. Salem Odeh, a defector from Latakia, told Reuters this week that historic and religious ties with Turkey that go back to the Ottoman Empire mean Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents -- generally wary of outside interference -- would accept a Turkish military role.

“I just hope there will be a Turkish military intervention. It’s better, and they have longstanding blood ties from old times, and they are closer to the East than the West,” he added. Citing Israeli security officials, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Thursday that they believe Turkey is moving toward a military intervention in Syria, in order to create a secure buffer zone for opposition activists. Accordingly, Turkey is expected to set up secure buffer zones on its border with Syria that would allow armed opposition groups to organize against the Syrian regime from bases protected by the Turkish military, according to Haaretz.

However, Arınç categorically ruled out any discussion among government circles that Turkey is considering military intervention. “There is absolutely no such thing,” he underlined. “Some Turkish politicians and some countries are saying Turkey will intervene in Syria. This is totally wrong. This is impossible, we don’t think of it.”

The last item doesn't deal with Syria as such - Poll: Turks are militaristic, don't like military service exemption (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-263917-poll-turks-are-militaristic-dont-like-military-service-exemption.html) (25 November 2011, Friday / KAZIM PIYNAR/BÜŞRA KIRKPINAR , İSTANBUL):


According to the poll conducted by İstanbul Bilgi University, Bilkent University and KONDA, 74 percent of participants surveyed think that “Turks are soldiers.” Only 11 percent of the survey participants do not agree with that.

In addition, most of the participants support mandatory military service as it is the current system in Turkey: only 15 percent say only those who desire to do military service should do so, while those who support mandatory military service are at 74 percent. However, 55 percent of the survey participants find the 15-month mandatory military service period “too long,” while those who approve of that time remain at 29 percent of the survey participants.

Most of the survey participants do not approve the government's initiative to introduce a paid military service exemption: 25 percent of the poll takers said that this right should be given to everybody, while 60 percent of them do not support the idea.

The poll also shows that Turkish people are warm to the idea of a professional military as 44 percent support this idea, while 30 percent do not and 21 percent partly support it.

The Turkish military should have women is supported by 15 percent, while 75 percent do not support it.

When it comes to conscientious objection to military service, 79 percent of the respondents are not aware of the concept, while 19 percent are. However, when asked if people should be able to make a choice between going or not going to the military depending on their beliefs, 82 percent of the survey respondents say “no,” while 14 percent say “yes.”

The Bend of the Halys has not changed much in 4000 years.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/2/2f/Hittite_Kingdom.png/640px-Hittite_Kingdom.png

Regards

Mike

AdamG
12-07-2011, 04:45 PM
The Russian government announced Tuesday that from December, a flotilla of warships will be sent to the naval base that it has in Syria. The authorities affirmed that the fleet will be led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and also have a patrol vessel, an anti-submarine ship, and other vessels.

http://english.pravda.ru/hotspots/terror/30-11-2011/119791-Russia_sent_military_ships_to_Syria-0/

Dayuhan
12-15-2011, 12:05 PM
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-15/syrian-army-defectors-kill-27-soldiers-as-armed-conflict-spreads.html


Syrian Army Defectors Kill 27 Soldiers as Armed Conflict Spreads

Syrian army defectors killed 27 members of President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces in an attack at dawn today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The attack in the southern governorate of Daraa, where the nine-month uprising against Assad began, came after eight Syrian soldiers died in an ambush by deserters near Hama.

Difficult to verify, of course, and hard to know if defections are increasing or will increase. Still, potentially an evolution that could adjust the terms of the stalemate that's developed.

davidbfpo
12-17-2011, 08:07 PM
Catching up on my reading I found this first-hand report inside Syria by the BBC's reporter Paul Wood, who entered illegally and remains valid today after a fortnight:http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/7438448/revolution-or-civil-war.thtml

He ends with:
..the longer this goes on, the greater the chance that a once noble struggle for democracy on the streets will become an ugly sectarian conflict.

davidbfpo
12-20-2011, 09:54 PM
A report by the Henry Jackson Society 'Intervention in Syria? An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards", which IMHO is wishful thinking and makes one wonder at the quality of pundits in this crisis.

Link:http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/cms/harriercollectionitems/SyriaIntervention.pdf

In my opinion even a "safe area" is impractical and the legitimacy of one along the Turkish border away from the urban areas where the killing is smacks of gesture politics.

ganulv
12-21-2011, 01:06 AM
In my opinion even a "safe area" is impractical and the legitimacy of one along the Turkish border away from the urban areas where the killing is smacks of gesture politics.
Some version of that sort of plan could include the creation of a government–not–in–exile by the current Syrian National Council. That sort of strategy would of course hand an Attack Your Opponents As Foreign Pawns Free card to the Assad government.

JWing
01-18-2012, 03:29 PM
Syria is experiencing a bloody Arab Spring, which Iraq might be involved in. Starting in March 2011, protests broke out in Syria, which the government immediately cracked down upon, but was not able to stop. By the fall, there were demonstrations across the country, and Damascus was responding with more and more force; leading to defections from the army. Beginning in the summer, reports emerged that the Iraqi government, along with leading Shiite parties were backing Damascus with political, economic, and military support.

continued (http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2012/01/are-iraqi-government-and-shiite-parties.html)

Strickland
01-29-2012, 03:14 PM
Consider the following analogy: Syrian Uprising vs. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Just as the Soviets chose to let the Wehrmacht eliminate elements that were identified as being inconsistent with stability in a Soviet-dominated Poland, shouldnt we allow the current Syrian regime to eliminate the most radical elements of the opposition in an effort to foster a greater chance of stability after the regime has fallen?

davidbfpo
01-29-2012, 06:19 PM
Strickland partially cited:
..shouldnt we allow the current Syrian regime..

Currently this not a situation in which outsiders, let alone the USA or the West (EU / NATO), are allowing the regime to do anything. Syria, I might add Bahrain is less lethally repressive, is criticised, condemned and subjected to sanctions that appear to have more to do with "taking a stand" than changing regime policy.

As for
..eliminate the most radical elements of the opposition..

From my watching of the situation the Syrian regime would have to kill tens of thousands. Nor are the most radical elements easily separated from the mass of protesters, many would argue the regime's response is what is the radicalising factor.

Ken White
01-29-2012, 08:45 PM
...shouldnt we allow the current Syrian regime to eliminate the most radical elements of the opposition in an effort to foster a greater chance of stability after the regime has fallen?No. That's the short answer. Long answer is 'Why do we care whether Syria is stable or not?' The mid east has not been stable for over 5,000 years and we aren't going to change that -- we were and are foolish to try.

jmm99
02-05-2012, 01:53 AM
Combined with the prior Turkish declination to take military action itself, and the Arab League decision to stand down (at least temporarily), the Russian and Chinese vetoes of the proposed UNSC Resolution (Lawfare brief by Jack Goldsmith (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2012/02/does-the-russian-veto-of-the-proposed-unsc-resolution-on-syria-vindicate-scott-horton-and-walter-russell-mead/)), reinforce Peter Munson's points (and links), Syria and R2P (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/syria-and-r2p).

Regards

Mike

jcustis
02-05-2012, 07:14 PM
The details and analysis may already be tucked away in a post or two within this thread, but does anyone know of research or critical analysis about the seemingly aberrant, though consistent, UN voting behavior of China and Russia?

I understand that there are financials involved, as well as a sense of "sticking it to the West", but I continue to scratch my head at the full range of forces involved. Any books or papers you could recommended would be appreciated.

As an aside, is it just that simple that China and Russia will veto anything where the US is perceived as instigating for the vote? Ambassador Churkin is quoted in today's LA Times that Western nations have undermined the chance for a political solution by "pushing the opposition towards power," yet Russia hasn't advocated any potential solution.

Surferbeetle
02-05-2012, 07:53 PM
Jon,

I too would be interested in more background. In the meantime...

Syria is used to the slings and arrows of friends and enemies (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-syria-is-used-to-the-slings-and-arrows-of-friends-and-enemies-6297648.html), by Robert Fisk Wednesday 01 February 2012, The Independent


True, the Syrian regime has never confronted opposition on such a scale. If the fatalities do not yet come close to the 10 or 20 thousand dead of the 1982 Hama uprising, which old Hafez al-Assad crushed with his customary ruthlessness, the widespread nature of today's rebellion, the defections from the Syrian army, the loss of all but one Arab ally – little Lebanon, of course – and the slow growth of a civil war make this the most dangerous moment in Syria's post-independence history. How can Bashar al-Assad hang on?

Well, there's Russia, of course, and the Putin-Medvedev determination not to be caught out by the West at the United Nations as they were when they failed to oppose the no-fly zones over Libya that led directly to Gaddafi's collapse. And there's Iran, for which Syria remains the Arab bridgehead. And Iranian suspicion that Syria is under international attack principally because of this alliance may well be correct. Strike down Baathist Syria and its Alawi-Shia President, and you cut deep into the soul of Iran itself. And there's Israel, which utters scarcely a word about Syria because it fears that a far more intransigent regime might take its place.

Tartus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartus#Russian_naval_base), Syria by wikipedia


Tartus hosts a Soviet-era naval supply and maintenance base, under a 1971 agreement with Syria, which is still staffed by Russian naval personnel. The base was established during the Cold War to support the Soviet Navy fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.[7] During the 1970s, similar support points were located in Egypt and Latakia, Syria. In 1977, the Egyptian support bases at Alexandria and Mersa Matruh were evacuated and the ships and property were transferred to Tartus, where the naval support base was transformed into the 229th Naval and Estuary Vessel Support Division. Seven years later, the Tartus support point was upgraded to the 720th Logistics Support Point.[8]

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and its Mediterranean fleet, the 5th Mediterranean Squadron which was composed of ships from the Northern Fleet and the Black Sea Fleet, ceased its existence. Since then, there have been occasional expeditions by Russian Navy vessels and submarines to the Mediterranean Sea. The naval logistics support base in Syria is now part of the Black Sea Fleet. It consists of three floating docks of which one is operational, a floating workshop, storage facilities, barracks and other facilities.[8]

Since Russia forgave Syria of three quarters, or $9.6 billion, of its $13.4 billion Soviet-era debt and became its main arms supplier in 2006, Russia and Syria have conducted talks about allowing Russia to develop and enlarge its naval base, so that Russia can strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean.[9] Amid Russia's deteriorating relations with the West, because of the 2008 South Ossetia War‎ and plans to deploy a US missile defense shield in Poland, President Assad agreed to the port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.[10][11] Since 2009, Russia has been renovating the Tartus naval base and dredging the port to allow access for its larger naval vessels.[12]

People's Republic of China–Iran relations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_Republic_of_China–Iran_relations) and People's Republic of China–Syria relations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_Republic_of_China–Syria_relations) by wikipedia

jmm99
02-05-2012, 10:32 PM
In a word: Lawfare.

Start with the 1977 USSR Constitution:


Article 29

The USSR's relations with other states are based on observance of the following principles: sovereign equality; mutual renunciation of the use or threat of force; inviolability of frontiers; territorial integrity of states; peaceful settlement of disputes; non-intervention in internal affairs; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; the equal rights of peoples and their right to decide their own destiny; co-operation among states; and fulfilment in good faith of obligations arising from the generally recognised principles and rules of international law, and from the international treaties signed by the USSR.

Tibor Varady, THE IMPACT OF THE EAST-WEST DIVIDE ON INTERNATIONAL LAW – PATTERNS OF DISCOURSE AND THE WAVES OF 1989 (http://www.esil-en.law.cam.ac.uk/Media/Draft_Papers/Varady_ESIL2010_Draft_Paper.pdf) (2010), which points out that Soviet practice (e.g., his Hungary) was, on its face, inconsistent with what was written. The Soviet explanation was an exception for "armed intervention for the purpose of 'safeguarding socialist democracy', or for the purpose of 'establishing democracy'" (Varady, p.9 pdf).

Thus, one might fairly argue, as did Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks), 1977 Parliamentary Debate re: Helsinki Final Act (Belgrade Meeting) (http://yourdemocracy.newstatesman.com/parliament/orders-of-the-day/HAN7710326), that the Soviets were consistent only in their planned inconsistency:


To the Soviets, peaceful co-existence is merely an extension of the class struggle to the international arena—a political, economic, ideological struggle, but certainly not a military one. To the Soviet leaders detente helps to diminish the risk of a third world war, as can be seen in Mr. Brezhnev's speech to the Soviet Communist gathering last year.

I should like to read a short extract from that speech. Mr. Brezhnev said that:


"communists take as their starting point the general laws of the development of revolution and of the building of socialism and communism…. In our time, when detente has 524 become a reality, both in the international workers movement and amongst its opponents, there often arises the question how it influences the class struggle. Some bourgeois politicians express astonishment and create a fuss about the solidarity of Soviet communists and the Soviet people with the struggle of other peoples for freedom and progress. This is either naiveté or, most probably, the deliberate befogging of peoples' brains. For it is as clear as can be that detente and peaceful coexistence relate to interstate relations. This means that disputes and conflicts between countries must not be solved by means of war, by the use of force or by the threat of force. Detente does not and cannot in the least degree rescind or change the laws of the class struggle…. Strict observance of the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other states, respect for their independence and sovereignty—that is one of the prerequisites of detente. We do not conceal"— I emphasise this— "that we see in detente the path to the creation of more favourable conditions for peaceful socialist and communist construction."

That is exactly what the Soviets are doing at the moment. Having read those words one might well ask "When is intervention not intervention?" The only answer there can be is "when it is practised by the Soviets".

Of course, in approaching issues of intervention and aggression, one should refrain from too much sanctimony - and, at the least, think about this quote:


“The ethic of our work, as I understand it, is based on a single assumption. That is, we are never going to be aggressors. . . . Thus we do disagreeable things, but we are defensive. That, I think, is still fair. We do disagreeable things so that ordinary people here and elsewhere can sleep safely in their beds at night.

"Is that too romantic? Of course, we occasionally do very wicked things.” He grinned like a schoolboy. “And in weighing up the moralities, we go in for dishonest comparisons; after all, you can’t compare the ideals of one side with the methods of the other, can you now? . . .

“I mean, you’ve got to compare method with method, and ideal with ideal. I would say that since the war, our methods — ours and those of the opposition — have become much the same. I mean, you can’t be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government’s policy is benevolent, can you now?” He laughed quietly to himself. “That would never do,” he said.

Simon Chesterman, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD WAR: INTELLIGENCE AND INTERNATIONAL LAW (http://students.law.umich.edu/mjil/uploads/articles/v27n4-chesterman.pdf) (2006; from le Carre, of course). One might ask: Who was speaking ? An "Us" or a "Them" ?

As we know from the Chinese version of "Unrestricted Warfare" (which includes Lawfare) is that the First Rule is that there ain't no rules. The impact of intelligence activities on sovereignty has been on the table for a long time. Quincy Wright et al, Essays on espionage and International law (http://ia600300.us.archive.org/25/items/essaysonespionag00stanrich/essaysonespionag00stanrich.pdf) (1962; 120 pp. pdf), esp. Quincy Wright's "Espionage and the Doctrine of Non-intervention in Internal Affairs" (starting at page 17 pdf).

As a summary, we have Christi Scott Bartman, Lawfare: Use of the Definition of Aggressive War by the Soviet and Russian Governments (http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Bartman%20Christi%20Scott.pdf?bgsu1241726718) (2009)


Abstract

This dissertation seeks to contribute to the understanding of the definition of the terms aggression and aggressive war by tracing the political, legal and military use of the terms by the Soviet Union from that posed at the 1933 Convention for the Definition of Aggression to the definition posed by the Russian Federation to the International Criminal Court in 1999. One might ask why the Soviet Union so adamantly promoted a definition of aggression and aggressive war while, as many have noted, conducting military actions that appeared to violate the very definition they espoused in international treaties and conventions. This dissertation demonstrates that through the use of treaties the Soviet Union and Russian Federation practiced a program of lawfare long before the term became known. Lawfare, as used by the Soviet Union and Russian Federation, is the manipulation or exploitation of the international legal system to supplement military and political objectives. The Soviet Union and Russian Federation used these legal restrictions to supplement military strategy in an attempt, not to limit themselves, but to control other states legally, politically, and equally as important, publicly, through the use of propaganda.

When I peer deeply into his eyes, I see a nationalistic KGB lawyer. :D

Hope this helps.

Regards

Mike

jmm99
02-06-2012, 05:35 AM
My faculty advisor (and teacher in this area - UN Charter, Geneva, etc.) told me that the quality of an article will improve in inverse proportion to its new length. So, cut the length in half, the quality will double.

Reducing her dissertation length (over 200 pages) to 23 pages, Christi Scott Bartman, LAWFARE AND THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION: WHAT THE SOVIET UNION AND RUSSIAN FEDERATION CAN TEACH US (http://www.case.edu/orgs/jil/vol.43.1.2/43_Bartman.pdf) (2011).

I'd suggest reading the short version and then going to her dissertation.

The article is part of a "Lawfare Project" by Case Western Reserve, LAWFARE!:ARE AMERICA'S ENEMIES USING THE LAW AGAINST US AS A WEAPON OF WAR? (http://www.case.edu/orgs/jil/recentissue.html) (Vol. 43, Nos. 1 & 2, 2011), with a bit more detail in a new post in the Lawfare thread, Case Western Reserve - Lawfare (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=131948&postcount=42).

Regards

Mike

jmm99
02-06-2012, 06:26 AM
The LA Times piece, Russia, China veto new U.N. resolution on Syria (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-violence-20120205,0,7429845.story), presents three points to the Russian argument:


The Russian U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, complained that Western nations had undermined the chance for a political solution by "pushing the opposition towards power."

In short, the Western nations jumped the gun (committed "political aggression"; "economic aggression" via sanctions) by themselves intervening in support of the Syrian opposition without prior UN approval.


The U.N. resolution would have condemned the Syrian government's "widespread and gross violations of human rights." Russia sought equal condemnation of Assad's armed opponents, a stance deplored as "reprehensible" by Rice.

This is the equality of filth argument.


The Russians also complained that the plan would have obliged the government to withdraw its forces from cities and towns, but no such requirement was imposed on insurgents.

"When the Syrian government forces were pulling out, armed groups were pulling in," Churkin said.

This is the equality of remedies argument.

I'd bet (but cannot tell without peering into Churkin's eyes ;)) these arguments have nothing to do with the reasons why Russia and China blocked the resolution. They are "strategic legalisms"; that is, they support a policy unstated in the legal argument. What the real reasons are, I don't know.

Regards

Mike

davidbfpo
02-06-2012, 11:09 AM
(Edited).. does anyone know of research or critical analysis about the seemingly aberrant, though consistent, UN voting behavior of China and Russia?

Jon,

I caught a very short Q&A on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, with a very short comment by a BBC Russian Service analyst and a Syrian reporter in exile (Starts 2:55):http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b01bldpj

There's also a BBC analysis, on Russia's stance:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16892728

An interim offer of help.

jmm99
02-06-2012, 04:40 PM
After having been relatively quiet about Syria in the past couple of weeks, TD's News Section (http://www.todayszaman.com/menuDetail.action?sectionId=100) (6 Feb 2012) has multiple Syria stories, including the lede story, Syrian forces bombard Homs, 50 killed (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270588-syrian-forces-bombard-homs-50-killed.html):


6 February 2012 / REUTERS, BEIRUT

Syrian forces bombarded Homs on Monday, killing 50 people in a sustained assault on several districts of the city which has become a centre of armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian National Council opposition group said.

"The tally that we have received from various activists in Homs since the shelling started at six this morning is 50, mostly civilians," the group's Catherine al-Talli told Reuters.

"The regime is acting as if it were immune to international intervention and has a free hand to use violence against the people," she said.

The bombardment came a day after the United States promised harsher sanctions against Damascus in response to Russian and Chinese vetoes of a draft UN resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to step aside.
...
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would work with other nations to try to tighten "regional and national" sanctions against Assad's government "to dry up the sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime's war machine going".

"We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children," she said. "We will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition's peaceful political plans for change."

Clinton did not say which nations might band together or precisely what they might do. But it appeared that the United States might seek to help organise a "Friends of Syria" group - proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy after the veto - to advance the Arab League initiative given the inability to make headway at the U.N. because of Russian and Chinese opposition.

I'd expect the overt Russian legal response to be that such sanctions are "economic aggression" - a position taken since the 1930s as to sanctions they do not like.

OIC voices deep regret over no UN agreement on Syria (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270508-oic-voices-deep-regret-over-no-un-agreement-on-syria.html):


5 February 2012 / TODAY'S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed deep regret over the failure of the UN Security Council to reach an agreement on a draft resolution on Syria which called for the settlement of the current crisis in Syria and the immediate cessation of all acts of violence.
The organization in a statement on Sunday expressed the hope that the inability of the Security Council to adopt the resolution on the Syrian crisis will not result in more deaths in Syria.

The General Secretariat renewed its call on all Syrian parties to save the country from the risk of sliding into civil war, a situation that threatens peace, security and stability in Syria and the region as a whole.

The General Secretariat condemned the ongoing violence, which led to the deaths of large numbers of innocent victims in the city of Homs, and called on the Syrian government to focus on a political solution as the best way to resolve the Syrian crisis. It also called on the government to work to institute the reforms it promised to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the Syrian people towards reform and change.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation - Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_of_Islamic_Cooperation).

Chief army defector promises fight to free Syria (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270559-chief-army-defector-promises-fight-to-free-syria.html):


5 February 2012 / AP, BEIRUT

The commander of rebel Syrian soldiers said Sunday there is no choice but to use military force to drive President Bashar Assad's regime from power as fears mounted that government troops will escalate their deadly crackdown on dissent after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution aimed at resolving the crisis.
...
"There is no other road" except military action to topple Assad after the vetoes at the UN, the commander of the Free Syrian Army told The Associated Press by telephone from Turkey.

"We consider that Syria is occupied by a criminal gang and we must liberate the country from this gang," Col. Riad al-Asaad said. "This regime does not understand the language of politics, it only understands the language of force."
...
A deeply sensitive question is whether such a coalition would back the Free Syrian Army. There appears to be deep hesitation among Western countries, fearing a further militarization of the conflict.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV on Saturday after the U.N., the head of the Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun said a coalition might give the FSA support "if necessary" to "protect the Syrian people."

BL: The "Western countries" are nowhere near armed intervention.

Turkey warns Assad to not misread failed resolution at the UN (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270574-turkey-warns-assad-to-not-misread-failed-resolution-at-the-un.html):


5 February 2012 / TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES, ANKARA

Turkey warned the Syrian regime against misreading the will of international community after the UN Security Council failed to adopt a strong resolution following a veto by Russia and China.

“The rejection of this resolution must never constitute a pretext for the Syrian administration to add new mistakes to the existing ones,” a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. ...

Speaking to a group of reporters on the sidelines of the 48th Munich Security Conference in Germany over the weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated that Turkey will not sit idly by in the face of killings perpetrated against civilian protestors in its southern neighbor. He did not specify, however, what steps Ankara is considering against Syria at this juncture.

Delivering a speech at conference, Davutoğlu said Turkey, as a neighboring country, had a moral responsibility for the protection of Syrian people. If needed, Turkey could host Syrian people wanting to escape the violence, he said, adding that this could be a powerful signal to the Assad administration. He dismissed claims that Turkey held talks under a NATO banner for a military intervention in Syria as baseless. Commenting on Iran, Davutoğlu said that a military intervention in Iran would be disaster for the region and urged negotiations instead.
...
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç slammed Iran on Sunday, saying that if Tehran keeps silent in face of the atrocities committed in Homs, it should take out the word “Islam” from the official name. “We know there is a country called the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran.' It is not a republic of a certain sect. Intentionally killing Muslims on such a [Holy] day is not something that can be disregarded,” he said in Bursa province. Arınç also claimed that the number of causalities in Homs has reached 500.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also warned that the Syrian crisis should not be treated as political rivalry among competing global powers. “Countries should view Syria from a humanitarian perspective. If they continue to see it from a political rivalry persective, the Syrian regime will keep killing its own people,” he said in The Hague.

Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Manisa deputy Naci Bostancı, who is also deputy chairman of the Human Rights Commission in the Turkish Parliament, told Today's Zaman that the Assad regime continues to misread the demands of its own people as well as calls from international stakeholders. “The regime will see this failed resolution as support for its actions,” he warned, adding that the fate of Assad was sealed no matter how hard he tries to cling onto power. ...

These statements simply restate the Turkish position held over the past few months.

From the same article, we learn that Syria has learned some "Lawfare" art:


Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari denied that Syrian forces killed hundreds of civilians in Homs, saying that "no sensible person" would launch such an attack the night before the Security Council was set to discuss his country. Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmud accused Syrian rebels of shelling Homs to "to swing the vote" at the Security Council. "The reports on some satellite channels that the Syrian army shelled neighborhoods in Homs are fabricated and unfounded," Mr. Mahmud said in a statement to AFP. The online news media firatnews.com, a mouthpiece for the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which stages attacks against Turkey, hailed the veto decision of Russian and China and reported on what Mr. Mahmud had said with regard to Homs.


There were reports that the Syrian army had engaged in a gun battle with the opposition forces nearby Turkish border village of Guvecci overlooking Syria. The Cihan News Agency filed a story on Sunday from Hatay province that villagers in Guvecci reported gun fire on Saturday night. A few bullets hit a solar panel on the roof of a house in the village and authorities urged residents to stay indoors.

and that limited fallout occurs on the Turkish side of the border.

cont. in part 2.

jmm99
02-06-2012, 06:00 PM
Turkish FM: Turks, Arabs to pay the price for Russian, Chinese veto (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270506-turkish-fm-turks-arabs-to-pay-the-price-for-russian-chinese-veto.html):


5 February 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,

Strongly criticizing Russia and China for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turks and Arabs will pay the price for these nay votes.

“They cast the vote but Arabs and Turks will pay the price for it,” he was quoted as saying by Turkey's NTV news channel. ...

The Turkish foreign minister once again vowed solidarity with the Syrian people, saying his country would welcome Syria's entire population with open arms. “Our doors are open to the Syrians who are currently in trouble,” he said.
...
NATO member Turkey shares a 900-kilometer-long border with Syria. Top Turkish leaders have criticized Syria's crackdown on protesters many times and called on former ally Bashar al-Assad to step down. Turkey has also imposed sanctions on Damascus.

Turkey is currently hosting several thousand Syrian refugees, including members of the rebel Syrian Free Army, at camps, while the opposition Syrian National Council meets regularly in İstanbul.

To aged historians of the Cold War (:)), the question is whether the closer analogy here is 1954 Guatamala or 1961 Bay of Pigs.

Russia, China and Iran have their share in every drop of blood Assad sheds (http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-270534-russia-china-and-iran-have-their-share-in-every-drop-of-blood-assad-sheds.html):


Bloodthirsty Bashar al-Assad is committing a new crime against humanity every day and for all the world to see. On the anniversary of the massacre his father committed in Hama 30 years ago, on Feb. 3, 1982, he carried out a complete butchery in Homs.
...
... In this process, the impotency or uselessness of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where Russia and China, as the main supporters of Syria, enjoy veto power, was proven once again. Because of these country's vetoes, the UNSC not only failed to pass a resolution to take preventive action against the massacres in Syria, but was also unable to issue a resolution to support the Arab League's decision to make Assad resign and to condemn the human rights violations by Syria.

...This was proof enough that the UNSC is a good-for-nothing organization while a despot is ruthlessly killing civilians before the eyes of the civilized world, and it must be reorganized according to current circumstances.
...
The responsibility of the blood spilled in Syria will fall not only on the shoulders of the despotic Assad regime. Along with Russia and China, which are acting as supports to this illegitimate system of oppression, Iran, which ruthlessly continues to lend full support to this bloody regime because of a sectarian affinity and its geopolitical interests in the region, as well as the groups in the region who are under Iran's influence, will be held responsible as well. Each drop of blood spilled in Syria will forever remain as a black stain on the foreheads of Russia and China as well as Iran, who similarly legitimizes this tyranny.

BL: A trioika and the congruent interests of its members (Russia, China and Iran) are the real reasons (as opposed to the "legal cover") for the veto and support of Syria (otherwise a bit player - although in author Kenes' opinion, the UN is of even lower impact).

Iran's suicide (http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-270542-irans-suicide.html):


The Syrian crisis is well nigh the biggest blow to the current Iranian regime's prestige since it was established in 1979. It is now safe to argue that Iran is squandering the soft power it has been exercising among the various Muslim groups around the globe.

Whether Shiite or Sunni, many Muslims have valued the Iranian model as a highly significant one. Its domestic problems and weaknesses notwithstanding, Iran has been appreciated as the alternative Muslim state model. Even those who are critical of the Iranian model have endorsed Iran's criticism of the West. No matter how differently Muslims have approached the Iranian regime, the crux of the matter has always been Tehran's elevated moral stature in Muslim politics. Iran's moral discourse on global politics has appealed to Muslims everywhere, so much so that mainstream anti-Iranian Muslims in other countries have trodden very carefully when speaking of Iran.
...
As I noted above, all states have their national strategies. One can easily criticize each of them on moral grounds. However, there is a major factor that differentiates Iran from countries like Russia and China: The Muslim world has no expectations from China or Russia with regard to the Syrian crisis. Thus, no matter how amorally pragmatic it is, neither the Russian nor the Chinese agenda on Syria can frustrate the Muslim people. The Syrian crisis is firstly an internal Muslim-world problem. It is the other Muslim states' reactions that are of primary importance in the global Muslim community. Therefore, the silence from Tehran on the killings of civilians in Syria frustrates all Muslims who expect a decisive moral interdiction from Iran when a state is killing its Muslim citizens.
...
Iran certainly has the right to formulate its national strategy on regional issues. Moreover, many of the Iranian theses on the future of Syria cannot be said to be false. Meanwhile, one can find concrete reasons for criticizing the intra-Muslim positions of other Muslim states, including Turkey's. But none of these considerations can hide the fact that Iran has a historical responsibility to be active in defusing the Syrian crisis. There is a deadlock now, and Iran is among the few countries that can push this case towards a humane and local resolution. If Tehran fails to try, it will tear a serious hole in the fabric of other Muslims' alignment with the country.
http://medya.todayszaman.com/todayszaman/2012/02/05/figures.jpg

This article is a good example of the point made in "Unrestricted Warfare" that a moralistic and somewhat sanctimonious nation - taking the lead in its "sphere of influence" - will be held to its own rules. From an agitprop technical critique, nicely done, author Bacik.

Arab League got it all wrong (http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-270668-arab-league-got-it-all-wrong.html):


...

As an organization created in the atmosphere of the Cold War, the UN is no longer capable of issuing decisions that relieve the conscience of the international community.

And it is not realistic to expect such a structure to develop this capability in future.

Turkey will be walking on thin ice while the balance of power in the region is being reshaped in a Cold War-like atmosphere.

On one hand, Russia and Iran, which back the Assad regime, are our two major neighbors.

On the other hand, there is the Kurdish issue, which may spread to Syria.

There is also the likelihood of a Sunni-Shiite conflict as a result of any military operation against Syria.

The ongoing protests in Bahrain are proof that Iran can play this card at the drop of a hat.

Stability in Syria will be hard to attain without eliminating Iran’s concerns and considering Russia’s demands.

The country with which we have the longest common border is on the way to descending into a civil war that may last for many years to come.

A civil war in Syria is likely to cause much trouble for Turkey, given the fact that it has long suffered from the violence originating from this country.

Today, one-third of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) consists of Syrian Kurds and the top positions within the organization are held by Syrian terrorists. And there are rumors that an independent Kurdish state will be established in northern Iraq in March. All these suggest that Turkey is heading toward a very critical period.

Unlike the US and Russia, Turkey sees the developments in Syria as a domestic matter and recent developments indicate that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s concerns about the region were correct.

Clearly, it would be to the benefit of all players in the region if Russia finds a formula that can secure its own strategic position.

USAians might think US and Mexico to gain some "feel" for Turkey's view of Syria.

cont. in part 3.

jmm99
02-06-2012, 06:19 PM
Would Turkey intervene in Syria? (http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-270565-would-turkey-intervene-in-syria.html)


Recently, the Syrian regime has increased its operations against the opposition. The death toll has risen to such an unbearable level that the international community wants to step in. Yet, the UN is incapable of passing a resolution because Syria is strategically important for both Iran and Russia, and Russia has the right to veto resolutions before the UN Security Council.

[Author Uslu discusses all military options other than Turkey, none feasible; and gets down to Turkey] ... The only remaining option in this case is Turkey.

Turkey is against outside intervention in Syria. However, the level of bloodshed in Syria has created anger among the Turkish public towards Syria that may lead the government to reconsider its initial policies.

Even if Turkey changes its position and is willing to intervene in Syria, Turkey would not form a collation with the Arab League to conduct such a military operation. There are two reasons for this. First, the Turkish political elite have a deep distrust of the West, especially since the EU abandoned Cyprus and left Turkey alone in many cases. Hence, Turkey would not intervene in Syria because the Turkish political elite think that such action would backfire and open new doors for other countries to intervene in Turkey’s domestic affairs if the Kurdish question gets out of control. For Turkey, there must be international recognition that international force is needed prior to intervention. It seems that US policy makers are trying to build a coalition that consists of the Arab League and Turkey, but this is not enough for Turkey to intervene.

Second, Turkey has its own fears. Especially Iranian influence over some proxy organizations in Turkey and Bashar al-Assad’s influence on Turkey’s Alevi community make Turkey think twice when it comes to a military intervention in Syria. Pro-Iranian Turkish journalists, for instance, have threatened Turkey, stating Turkey’s Alevi community is unhappy with Turkey’s policies regarding Syria. There is evidence of this threat as Alevi journalists and intellectuals have been harshly criticizing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s policies. Thus, for domestic reasons, too, Turkey is not likely to intervene.

The only way Turkey would intervene would be if the conflict gets out of control and refuges pour into Turkey, if Turkish public anger reaches a level that the Turkish government has to intervene and if Turkey is allowed to lead NATO forces with the support of the Arab League.

I'd not even speculate what back-channel offers are flowing back and forth, esp. given the other major topic in TZ - Iran and Israel (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-270541-turkish-arab-officials-favor-diplomatic-measures-to-solve-crisis-with-iran.html).

TZ (Today's Zaman - Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Today's_Zaman)) is the English-version "paper of record" for Turkish centrists leaning to the right.

I have in my mind an admittedly overly-sentamentalized word picture of the Turks:


The detail of what happened will probably never be reported; the essence has been: The Turkish Brigade was destroyed. ... Tall, pale-eyed men in dark faces, in heavy greatcoats, wielding long bayonets, the Turks refused to fall back. There were observers who said some officers threw their hats to the ground, marking a spot beyond which they would not retreat, and, surrounded by the enemy, died "upon their fur". There were others, all else failing, who threw cold steel at the enemy in bayonet charges. Rarely has a small action, dimly seen, sketchily reported, sent such intimations of glory flashing across the world. ... But the Turks died.

(from Fehrenbach, of course; This Kind of War, p.338). The Turks sent another brigade.

Reading these "Young Turks" brings me up to the present-day reality.

Regards

Mike

jcustis
02-07-2012, 03:09 AM
A trioika and the congruent interests of its members (Russia, China and Iran) are the real reasons (as opposed to the "legal cover") for the veto and support of Syria

Maybe I am still just being daft today, but what are the congruent interests of Russia, China, and Iran? The ability to stick it to the West (and specifically the US) through Lawfare?

ganulv
02-07-2012, 03:28 AM
Maybe I am still just being daft today, but what are the congruent interests of Russia, China, and Iran? The ability to stick it to the West (and specifically the US) through Lawfare?
An assertion of sovereignty in general, and specifically an assertion of the right to use a strong hand against internal opposition in order to prevent a hypothetical even worse case scenario. That’s what comes to my mind, at least.

jcustis
02-07-2012, 03:48 AM
Okay, that line of reasoning does make sense. And it does fit with what I already know about the rise of the first two powers, Russia and China.

jmm99
02-07-2012, 06:33 AM
Jon & ganulv:

Law ("Lawfare") is an instrument of policy (Politik in CvC terms); just as Force ("Warfare") is an instrument of policy (Politik in CvC terms). Obviously, the two "fares" (which boil down to how one conducts the struggle) have to co-ordinate in order to reach the endgoals set by the same policy. Law ("Lawfare") is really a subordinate instrument of the much larger political struggle. Force ("Warfare") is the primary instrument of the military struggle. All this is standard doctrine to the Russians and Chinese; and has been learned by the Iranians. Syria, of course, is a minnow here.

NB: Russia, China and Iran all have solid histories and reasons for not wanting other states to intervene in Russian, Chinese and Iranian internal affairs. They also have solid histories and reasons for intervening and in the future wanting to intervene in other states' internal affairs. As such, they have to have different sets of rules for different occasions. We (US) are remarkably naive in this area - e.g., I remarked to myself how naive Quincy Wright was in his 1962 article as I read through it.

More to the underlying policies: Russia, China and Iran have common economic interests - oil, for example; as to which others here with much more expertise can recount the precise relationships. Iran (Shia) has a strategic interest in at least equality with the ME Sunni states (Turkey, Saudi and Egypt; the last being a bit hors de combat at the moment). Turkey has moved (since 2003) into a position where it has some legitimate clout in the Sunni Arab world; and is less tied to NATO, the EU and the US. In 2003, Turkey established that its price was higher than the US was willing to pay - not a bad rep in that part of the World. Russia, of course, has a much more direct strategic interest than China in the Middle East - and a traditional interest in Iran. Turkey has been a traditional enemy of both Russia and Iran.

Lawfare has tactical, operational (the organization & placement of "stuff") and strategic aspects. Its strategic aspect is almost by definition a part of a larger strategy. In short, one wages lawfare not for its own sake or merits (good or bad); but, to assist in reaching end goals driven by a greater policy. That policy is often unstated in the "lawfare" arguments (as opposed to a "simple" case for money damages where the policy end goal is explicitly stated in the legal pleadings - $$$).

Lawfare works in part because a great many folks believe that facts and laws are determinate; that is, take a set of facts and apply the given law - and, voila, the correct (true, just, etc.) decision is derived logically. That is true only in the simplest cases; or in cases that are simplified because of the constraints imposed on the parties.

The fact is that, if legal talent, expertise, experience, etc. are not constrained by time and money, both the facts and the law are indeterminate; that is, they can be shaped (manipulated; and that legally within the constraints of the given legal system). That methodology can reach results which are totally at odds with the theory that results follow from determinate facts and law. It also allows a party to "distinguish" between two situations that appear much the same to the less experienced observer. The essence of law is not logic, but experience.

For example, the Russians have adopted positive (statutory) laws re: intervention in the internal affairs of other states that are based on international treaty laws (which the Russians initially drafted in whole or in part). Those international laws, either explicitly or by state practice, contain exceptions - which also are part of Russian law since it is based on I Law (etc.). Thus, the Russian law and I Law are really indeterminate because one can look to the rule, or to its exceptions, or to the exceptions to the exceptions. Given that the facts in interventions are complex and unclear (especially if one wants to make them such), the facts are also indeterminate.

All this is not restricted to "Lawfare", but is simply the way in which winning lawyers handle cases. Rather than reading me rattling on about 40+ years of experience, download LoPucki & Weyrauch, A Theory of Legal Strategy (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=203491) (2000):


Abstract:

By the conventional view, case outcomes are largely the product of courts' application of law to facts. Even when courts do not generate outcomes in this manner, prevailing legal theory casts them as the arbiters of those outcomes.

In a competing strategic view, lawyers and parties construct legal outcomes in what amounts to a contest of skill. Though the latter view better explains the process, no theory has yet been propounded as to how lawyers can replace judges as arbiters. This article propounds such a theory.

It classifies legal strategies into three types: those that require willing acceptance by judges, those that constrain the actions of judges, and those that entirely deprive judges of control.

Strategies that depend upon the persuasion of judges are explained through a conception of law in which cases and statutes are almost wholly indeterminate and strategists infuse meaning into these empty rules in the process of argumentation. That meaning derives from social norms, patterns of outcomes, local practices and understandings, informal rules of factual inference, systems imperatives, community expectations, and so-called public policies.

Constraint strategies operate through case selection, record making, legal planning, or media pressure.

Strategists deprive judges of control by forum shopping, by preventing cases from reaching decision, or by causing them to be decided on issues other than the merits.

The theory presented explains how superior lawyering can determine outcomes, why local legal cultures exist, how resources confer advantage in litigation, and one of the means by which law evolves.

Endorsed - JMM.

All that being said, "Lawfare" is often just camo for what could be done straight away without providing any reason for it - just veto the resolution (the veto, of course, being in itself a legal process). However, some legal (and other) arguments are always made in support of the legal step taken. The point is not to be distracted by the legal process (esp. where as with the UNSC Syria resolution, the result was obviously going to be negative before it happened).

Regards

Mike

ganulv
02-07-2012, 03:31 PM
The Russian Permanent Resident was on Charlie Rose last night and was much more candid than I would have ever expected. I’m not typically a fan of Mr. Rose’s interviewing style but he didn’t do a half–bad job on this one. Not that Mr. Churkin required a deft touch. The guy appears to be quite the charmer, at least compared to the battle–ax the U.S. has up on the East Side.

The interview isn’t streaming as of 1530 UTC but it looks like it will be by–and–by. LINK (http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/6099)

jmm99
02-07-2012, 04:26 PM
TZ - News (http://www.todayszaman.com/menuDetail.action?sectionId=100) again featured Syria as its lede story.

I think this commentary (7 Feb 2012) on Russia's policies underlying the veto makes sense.

Has Syria become Russia's Middle Eastern lebensraum? (http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-270706-has-syria-become-russias-middle-eastern-lebensraum.html):


The international media has narrowed its focus, and analysis and judgment has been concentrated on Moscow's role in the delays. The key question here is why Russia opposes the UNSC resolution, whether is it true that Moscow perceives Syria as its political “lebensraum” (living space) in the Middle East.

... [describes tenuous Syrian-Russian relations before 2005, picking up in that year] ... There are several motivating factors at play here, in addition to the aforementioned developments in Russian-Syrian relations.

On one hand, if Syria arrives at a post-Assad period, it could improve its relations with neighboring countries, which would in turn weaken Russia's economic position in Syria. Russian business investments in Syrian infrastructure, energy and tourism amount to nearly $20 billion.

On the other hand, if a fundamentalist regime were to come to power in Damascus, Russia risks losing its contracts, investments and other benefits -- particularly the strategically located Syrian maritime port of Tartus, first used by the USSR as a supply hub during the Cold War, in addition to Latakia, Syria's second largest port, where it has a smaller base.

The most obvious reason for Russia's resistance to drastic change in Syria is that any such shifts would threaten Moscow's strategic position, economic interests and political ambiguity in the Middle East. ... [describes Russian problem with UNSC Libyan resolution allowing NATO to take over Libyan operations] ...

Moreover, Russia sees Syria as an opportunity to take part in “rebuilding the Middle East” by participating in peace talks. ... Russia understands that Assad's days are over and is considering how to safeguard its position in the region. This is why they support a controlled exit (of Assad). If the Syrian opposition agrees to talks in Moscow with the incumbent Syrian regime, Moscow will likely maintain its economic and strategic position in Syria in the post-Assad period.

Furthermore, the Russian government has accused the US and other Western countries of encouraging anti-Putin protests and funding opposition movements. They have been disappointed by the comparisons being drawn by the Western media between recent protests in Russia and the Arab Spring revolutions. While the West has seen its own grassroots protests (for example, the “Occupy” protests in the US and UK), these actions can scarcely be compared to the Arab Spring revolutions -- but nonetheless Russia has argued that the West is in no position to criticize or comment, let alone intervene in Russian domestic affairs.

Saturday's vetoes clearly indicate that this issue is linked to the Iran question. China and Russia, who sit on the 5+1 group negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, have opposed the oil embargo against Iran: China imports about 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran. Both countries have an interest in checking US influence in the Middle East and Central Asia and have been developing strong strategic relationships with Iran.

Only one of these factors (the paragraph I put in italics dealing with Russian internal affaris) is explicitly set forth in the legal arguments supporting the veto - and that without mentioning Russia's concerns about its own dissidents.

Regards

Mike

tequila
02-08-2012, 12:17 AM
Anonymous hacks Assad's emails (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/bashar-assad-emails-leaked-tips-for-abc-interview-revealed-1.411445)


Hundreds of emails from Syrian President Bashar Assad's office were leaked on Monday after an attack by the hacker group Anonymous. One of the email files, which Haaretz has obtained, was a document preparing Assad for his December 2011 interview with ABC's Barbara Walters.

The attack took place overnight Sunday and the target was the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Some 78 inboxes of Assad's aides and advisers were hacked and the password that some used was "12345". Among those whose email was exposed were the Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam and Assad's media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban.

...

Jaafari Jr. wrote: "The major points and dimensions that have been mentioned a lot in the American media are: The idea of violence has been one of the major subjects brought up in every article. They use the phrases 'The Syrian government is killing its own people,' 'Tanks have been used in many cities,' 'Airplanes have been used to suppress the peaceful demonstrations,' and 'Security forces are criminals and bloody.'"

She advised: "It is hugely important and worth mentioning that 'mistakes' have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized 'police force.' American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are 'mistakes' done and now we are 'fixing it.' It's worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings."

Jaafari also recommended that Assad say: "Syria doesn't have a policy to torture people, unlike the USA, where there are courses and schools that specialize in teaching policemen and officers how to torture."She advised using Abu Ghraib in Iraq or execution via electric chair as more examples.

ganulv
02-08-2012, 12:46 AM
Anonymous hacks Assad's emails (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/bashar-assad-emails-leaked-tips-for-abc-interview-revealed-1.411445)
Como cantó Rubén Blades, es que aún no hay gente que no entiende que en estos días hasta pa’ ser maleante hay que estudiar. (As Rubén Blades sang, even today there are people who still don’t understand that you have to do your homework even to be the bad guy.)

ganulv
02-08-2012, 01:09 AM
The details and analysis may already be tucked away in a post or two within this thread, but does anyone know of research or critical analysis about the seemingly aberrant, though consistent, UN voting behavior of China and Russia?

I understand that there are financials involved, as well as a sense of "sticking it to the West", but I continue to scratch my head at the full range of forces involved. Any books or papers you could recommended would be appreciated.

As an aside, is it just that simple that China and Russia will veto anything where the US is perceived as instigating for the vote? Ambassador Churkin is quoted in today's LA Times that Western nations have undermined the chance for a political solution by "pushing the opposition towards power," yet Russia hasn't advocated any potential solution.
I e-mailed a classmate who is working in Moscow and she wasn’t able to lend any particular expertise about Russian/Syrian relations but she said that in Moscow assumed reasons for Russia’s stance in the U.N. include a couple of things which have made their way into the U.S. media (arms contracts, Russia’s discomforts with its own political protests), one which seems to be finding some purchase in the U.S. media (that the U.N. is a good stage for a demonstration of Russia’s continued international relevance in the context of the upcoming elections there), and which I have yet to see in the U.S. media (that Russia’s only Mediterranean port is located in Syria). She also recommended this aggregator (http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/default.cfm) to me if it might be of interest (it currently has five Syria–related links up).

jcustis
02-08-2012, 08:18 AM
Assad's team is really working all of the angles.

And who would thunk it...the enemy of my enemy could be my friend.

Anonymous...hmmm. (sigh).

Dayuhan
02-09-2012, 01:01 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9070103/International-militarisation-in-Syria-growing-closer-warns-US-official.html



International 'militarisation' in Syria growing closer, warns US official

The international community may be forced to 'militarise' the crisis in Syria unless president Bashar al-Assad stops the onsalught on his people, a senior US official warned on Wednesday.

“We definitely don’t want to militarise the situation. If it’s avoidable we are going to avoid it. But increasingly it looks like it may not be avoidable,” he said.

Entropy
02-09-2012, 03:46 PM
militarise the situation

Ah, a new candy-as$ euphemism we can make fun of. I'll try this the next time I get in an argument with the wife - "Hon, don't make me militarise this situation!"

davidbfpo
02-10-2012, 11:58 AM
I have been asked a few times by friends about military intervention in Syria and have rejected as both practical and likely - if by the West (whatever that means).

Nor am I convinced - without the USA - that there is a real will and a current capability to intervene against the existing Syrian state.

The only neighbour who has been active diplomatically on possibly taking military intervention, in a very limited way, has been Turkey and the imposition of 'safe havens'. I don't recall any similar comments by Syria's other neighbours, notably Jordan and Iraq. Lebanon is not today able to independently decide.

Mulling over the topic today, as 'militarise the situation' appeared, it struck me that there is a worst case scenario.

The West enables a military intervention (very general term I accept), which degrades further the Syrian regime's power and includes attacking air defences. Then Israel launches a strike on Iran, which may include overflying Syria and the Syrian regime bolstered by the spirit of Arab nationalism regains sufficient power to survive.

AdamG
02-10-2012, 06:45 PM
RUMINT designed to get a reaction -


Opposition activists said they had received reports that the Syrian army had transferred a significant quantity of grenades and mortars containing chemical agents to a school building in Homs.

The opposition also reported that gas masks were being distributed to soldiers at roadblocks.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/assad-forces-mull-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-homs-opposition-says-1.411954



At least 25 killed in blast Syrian TV says targets installations country's second largest city; activists report resumed activity by Assad's army near rebel city of Homs.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/report-blasts-rock-army-bases-in-syria-s-aleppo-civilians-killed-1.412132

tequila
02-13-2012, 03:58 AM
Ratlines in reverse. For those of us with Syrian border experience, this is a bit ironic:

For Iraqis, Aid to Syria Repays a Debt (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/world/middleeast/for-iraqis-aid-to-syrian-rebels-repays-a-war-debt.html?seid=auto&smid=tw-nytimes&pagewanted=all)


FALLUJA, Iraq — Not so long ago, Syrians worked to send weapons and fighters into Iraq to help Sunnis fighting a sectarian conflict; suddenly, it is the other way around.

A belated celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on the outskirts of this western Iraqi city on Saturday quickly took on the trappings of a rally for Syria’s rebels. Young boys waved the old green, black and white flag Syria adopted in the 1930s after declaring independence from the French. Others collected money to send aid and weapons to the fighters opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government across the border.

“I wish I could go there with my gun and fight,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hais, a tribal leader interviewed at his compound in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.

It is increasingly clear that Syria’s sectarian war is becoming the regional conflict that analysts have long feared. The rush of recent events — including bombings and assassinations in Damascus and Aleppo, and intensifying violence in northern Lebanon coming directly out of the sectarian hostilities in Syria — suggest that the Assad government now also faces antagonists across its borders.

Like Iraq and Afghanistan before it, analysts say, Syria is likely to become the training ground for a new era of international conflict, and jihadists are already signing up. This weekend, Al Qaeda’s ideological leadership and, more troublingly, the more mainstream Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for jihadists around the world to fight Mr. Assad’s government.

Nowhere is the cross-border nature of sectarian hostilities more clear than in Iraq’s western desert, where Sunni Arabs are beginning to rally to the cause of the Syrian opposition and, in the process, perhaps strengthen their hand in dealings with an antagonistic Shiite-led national government in Baghdad.

A weapons dealer who operates in Anbar, who said he goes by the alias Ahmed al-Masri, said, “Five months ago I was told that the Syrian brothers are in need of weapons. I started to buy the weapons from the same guys that I previously sold to — the fighters of Anbar and Mosul. I used to bring them from Syria; now it’s the other way around.”

The man said he was selling mortars, grenades and rifles, and that his contact in Syria was also an Iraqi. In some instances, he said Iraqis were giving away weapons, and in those cases he charged money only to transport them across the border.

ganulv
02-13-2012, 04:22 AM
Ratlines in reverse. For those of us with Syrian border experience, this is a bit ironic:

For Iraqis, Aid to Syria Repays a Debt (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/world/middleeast/for-iraqis-aid-to-syrian-rebels-repays-a-war-debt.html?seid=auto&smid=tw-nytimes&pagewanted=all)
Is it ironic or is it fitting?

Entropy
02-14-2012, 05:25 AM
Maybe I am still just being daft today, but what are the congruent interests of Russia, China, and Iran? The ability to stick it to the West (and specifically the US) through Lawfare?

John,

Mark Safranski makes some good arguments here (http://zenpundit.com/?p=5349):


So it can hardly be reassuring to Moscow or Beijing that when the dust has yet to settle in Libya, that the United States and it’s NATO allies are now pressing for new UN resolutions designed to justify military intervention in Syria to overthrow Bashar Assad. Like the late and unlamented Colonel Gaddafi, Bashar Assad is a cold-blooded murderer, but unlike the crazy Colonel, Assad is a client of Russia and close Syrian ties to Moscow go way back to the earliest days of his father’s dictatorship. There’s no way, in such a short amount of time, that an American effort to topple Assad – however justified morally – that Vladimir Putin and to be truthful, many ordinary Russians, would not view that as a Western attempt to humiliate Russia. And R2P would indicate still more humiliations to come!

and


Iran, North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe and other states ruled by kleptocrats and monsters act as buffers for China and Russia. Aside from the benefits these failed states can bring as customers for military hardware or sellers of raw materials, the attention of Western statesmen and human rights activists are diverted by the cause du jour in these hellholes, rather than being focused on what Beijing and Moscow might be up to at home or abroad. Every dismantling of an anti-Western dictatorship, from their perspective, is a step closer to their direct confrontation with the West’s hyperactive, erratic, morally hypocritical, meddling, ruling elite who will be no more able to ignore “grave injustices” in Wuhai or Kazan than they could in Aleppo or Benghazi.

This is not an argument that we should not press our claims, or not try to keep nukes out of the hands of religious fanatics or refrain from crushing states that attack us with terrorist proxies; we can and should do all of these things with vigor. But when possible, much is to be gained by pursuing our interests in a manner that permits other great powers to at least save face. Destroying Iran’s government because of it’s nuclear activities, for example, is not a strategic “win” if the way we do it convinces China and Russia to form a military alliance against the United States.

Read the whole thing.

Uboat509
02-16-2012, 09:49 PM
The Economist has a good deal of quality reporting on the subject of Syria including this piece (http://www.economist.com/node/21547305) which sheds some light on the complexity of the issues there. On the face of it, it seems like a no brainer but nothing in the world of international relations is ever that simple. To begin with, the Gulf Arab states have competing interests at stake. On the one hand, most of them are hardly paragons of democratic reform and the Arab Spring has probably made most of them nervous if not out right scared. The overthrow of another authoritarian Arab regime is bound to stir up pro-democracy (or at least anti-regime) sentiment in their own states. On the other hand, the mounting excesses of the Assad regime is bringing unwanted attention to the state of governance in the Gulf Arab states as a whole. They are facing further pressure to support the (largely) Sunni opposition forces against an oppressive Shia government by their own populations.
Individual states have interests of their own to consider. Jordan is no friend of the Assad regime but does not relish the idea of Islamists coming to power in Syria. Paradoxically, Israel may have similar feelings. Assad funneled money and equipment to Hamas and Hezbollah but did not pass on chemical or biological weapons nor did he directly threaten Israel. A new, more Islamist government in Syria may not show the same restraint. Of course the interests of Iran and Lebanon in preserving the Shia dominated regime of Assad is fairly obvious and the Shia dominated government in Iraq seems to have aligned itself that way to at least some extent.
For the West, Syria presents difficult problem in that the opposition is divided and disorganized. It is difficult to know who to support or how. The sectarian nature of the crisis is also worrying. The opposition is largely Sunni in composition. That the Shia minority is standing by the regime is no surprise. What is surprising is the fact that several Christian sects, the Druze and even the Kurdish minority are either out right supporting the regime or at least hedging their bets against whoever ultimately triumphs. These groups have benefited from the largely secular nature of the Assad regime and they fear, not with out some justification, the potential backlash if an Islamist government were to take power in Damascus.
The are no simple answers nor courses of action that do not have serious potential consequences. The governments of a good many states are making strong statements about what should be done about Syria but few are probably willing, or able to pair actions with their statements. Ultimately, the world may very well find that the solution to the crisis in Syria is not the best option but rather the least bad one.

davidbfpo
02-25-2012, 03:13 PM
Hat tip to Abu M who commended this CNAS commentary by Marc Lynch:http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS_PressureNotWar_Lynch.pdf

Sombre conclusion (in part):
....there are no realistic military options available that could improve the situation, and those calling for military intervention must demonstrate not only that it is just, but that it can work. They have not. Diplomatic options are no more likely to produce immediate results. However, they still hold out the best hope of pushing Syria towards a negotiated political transition without either making the situation worse through
a poorly conceived military intervention....

Some of this week's newsreel has been grim. It is ironic that the focus has been Homs, or it's suburbs and what did the world do last time Homs was bombarded? Nothing.

JMA
02-25-2012, 04:28 PM
Hat tip to Abu M who commended this CNAS commentary by Marc Lynch:http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS_PressureNotWar_Lynch.pdf

Sombre conclusion (in part):

Some of this week's newsreel has been grim. It is ironic that the focus has been Homs, or it's suburbs and what did the world do last time Homs was bombarded? Nothing.

Went in (supposedly) for Bhengazi but not for Homs.

Simple deduction is that its all about oil and balls.

Syria has no meaningful oil and the US/Europe don't have the balls to stare down Russia and China

Surferbeetle
02-25-2012, 05:20 PM
In general, history reflects that Russians are accomplished mathematicians, engineers, and chess players...from time to time of late there are also glimmers of hope when it comes to politics and economics. :wry:

Asad soll nach Russland ins Exil (http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/politik/international/asad_soll_nach_russland_ins_exil_1.15264239.html), 24. Februar 2012, 21:13, NZZ Online


Der tunesische Präsident Moncef Marzouki schlug zum Auftakt der Konferenz vor, dem syrischen Präsidenten Bashar al-Asad Straffreiheit zu gewähren und ihm den Gang ins Exil zu ermöglichen. Als Aufnahmeland brachte er Russland ins Gespräch.


Am Treffen in Tunis nimmt auch eine Delegation aus der Schweiz teil. Nicht vertreten sind Russland und China, die im Uno-Sicherheitsrat schärfere Massnahmen gegen das syrische Regime verhindert hatten.

http://translate.google.com


[Swiss]Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Swiss representations: Russia (http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/eur/vrus/aforus.html)

Surferbeetle
02-25-2012, 05:57 PM
Robert Fisk: From Washington this looks like Syria's 'Benghazi moment'. But not from here (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-from-washington-this-looks-like-syrias-benghazi-moment-but-not-from-here-6612093.html), TUESDAY 07 FEBRUARY 2012, The Independent


The destruction of the Alawite-led government in Syria – which means in effect, a Shia regime – will be a sword in the soul of Shia Iran. And look at the Middle East now from the windows of the massive presidential palace that overlooks the old city of Damascus. True, the Gulf has turned against Syria. True, Turkey has turned against Syria (while generously offering Bashar exile in the old Ottoman empire).

But look east, and what does Bashar see? Loyal Iran standing with him. Loyal Iraq – Iran's new best friend in the Arab world – refusing to impose sanctions. And to the west, loyal little Lebanon refusing to impose sanctions. Thus from the border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, Assad has a straight line of alliances which should prevent, at least, his economic collapse.


As long as Syria can trade with Iraq, it can trade with Iran and, of course, it can trade with Lebanon. The Shia of Iran and the Shia majority in Iraq and the Shia leadership (though not majority) in Syria and the Shia (the largest community, but not a majority) in Lebanon will be on Assad's side, however reluctantly. That, I'm afraid, is the way the cookie crumbles. Crazed Gaddafi had real enemies with firepower and Nato. Assad's enemies have Kalashnikovs and no Nato.

Assad has Damascus and Aleppo, and those cities matter. His principal military units have not defected to the opposition.

The "good guys" also contain "bad guys" – a fact we forgot in Libya, even when the "good guys" murdered their defected army commander and tortured prisoners to death. Oh yes, and the Royal Navy was able to put into Benghazi. It cannot put into Tartous because the Russian Navy is still there.

Dr. Robert Fisk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Fisk), bio by wikipedia


Fisk has said that journalism must "challenge authority, all authority, especially so when governments and politicians take us to war." He has quoted with approval the Israeli journalist Amira Hass: "There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power."[7] Speaking on "Lies, Misreporting, and Catastrophe in the Middle East," at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 22 September 2010, Fisk stated, "I think it is the duty of a foreign correspondent to be neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer, whoever they may be." [8]


Fisk was educated at Yardley Court preparatory school,[13] Sutton Valence School and at Lancaster University [14] and has a PhD in Political Science, from Trinity College, Dublin in 1983.[15] The title of his doctoral thesis was "A condition of limited warfare: Éire’s neutrality and the relationship between Dublin, Belfast and London, 1939–1945".[15] He worked on the Sunday Express diary column before a disagreement with the editor, John Junor, prompted a move to The Times.[16] From 1972–75, the height of The Troubles, Fisk served as Belfast correspondent for The Times, before becoming its correspondent in Portugal covering the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution. He then was appointed Middle East correspondent (1976–1988). When a story of his was spiked (Iran Air Flight 655) after Rupert Murdoch's takeover, he moved to The Independent, with his first report published there on 28 April 1989.

davidbfpo
02-28-2012, 02:32 PM
Whilst the West, Arab League and others "fiddle as Rome burns" making solemn declarations it appears that other nations are "punching above their weight" and using those guarantors of stability - guns.

Well that is my reading of this FP Blog article and this appropriate passage:
...the Saudis have run out of patience. They now unabashedly advocate for arming the Free Syrian Army.

This is not an empty threat. The Saudis know how to procure and move weapons, and they have no shortage of cash. If Riyadh wants to arm the opposition, armed it shall be. And those who receive the weapons will likely be at least amenable to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam that has spawned dangerous Islamist movements worldwide.

Of course, a Saudi-led insurgency would not be in the cards if the Obama administration were not so opposed to empowering the opposition. But the longer Obama waits and the deeper the humanitarian crisis worsens, the more likely it becomes that other actors will tip the balance in Syria. Using history as a guide, none would be more dangerous than Saudi Arabia.

Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/02/27/saudi_arabia_is_arming_the_syrian_opposition?page= 0,0

I am not sure what Obama is waiting for!

tequila
02-28-2012, 05:31 PM
That FP article by Jonathan Schanzer seems to presume that there is some sort of well-defined pro-Saudi Salafist faction that we are going to 'lose Syria' to if we don't get off our butts and start arming ... who? What, the nice, liberal, secular faction? Can Schanzer identify who these people are, and ensure that they won't share or be taken over by the nasty Salafist jihadist faction? Somehow I doubt it.

I'm not sure how the U.S. throwing money and weapons into the black hole of the splintered and localized Syrian opposition factions is going to accomplish anything, except ensuring that U.S. weapons will be floating around the Middle East killing people for years to come. If we could pick out an organized group and empower them to the point where they could win, that would be one thing, but the Syrian groups make the Libyans look organized. At least Benghazi represented a safe area where weapons could be assimilated and groups could be trained on their use. Weapons pumped into Syria, if they even reached the right hands, would be thrown into battle immediately by people desperate to defend themselves but completely untrained.

And what sort of weaponry do these groups need? They don't need small arms - they need antiarmor weapons, explosives for IEDs, mortars, and heavy machine guns that will allow them to at least defend their neighborhoods against Syrian Army vehicles and artillery. Unfortunately this is also the sort of stuff that could be turned on future American forces or Israeli forces, or indeed forces of the Gulf Arab states. And it would be going to groups that could easily lose it to Syrian government forces, or sell it on to anyone.

Bob's World
02-28-2012, 06:17 PM
Several good thoughts in UBoat's post above. There are few, if any, "right" answers regarding Syria or the many other similarly situated nation-states in the Middle East. Governments and populace groups, and individuals will ultimately act IAW what they believe best serves their interests as they define them to be, and as they understand the situation. Many will miscalculate on both parts of that equation.

For the US we struggle on many levels. What are our interests? We've been all over the map on that in recent years, and have made some pretty sketchy interest-based arguments for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to name few more significant ones. I would love to see us purge the "value-based" interests from our playbook. A well intended idea, but is simply does not play out well or produce the security effects we hoped for when we decided post-Cold War that our security is enhanced by making other states more like us. Governments and populaces need to find their own sweet spot on issues like form of governance and values; selling what works for us only delays others getting to what works for them.

We also need to get past seeing these situations in simplistic black and white constructs of preserving some regime or helping some opposition. "Winning" in these situations is not about who occupies the capital as the dust settles. Winning is getting to an evolved form of governance that serves and is recognized by a larger percentage of the populace. If 60% of the Syrian populace generally accepts Assad's regime (though most of those would probably chew our ear off as to reforms they'd like to see), the question is "how does Syria get to a form of governance that serves a larger percentage, and that is more in synch with the expectations of a larger segment of the populace"?

I think Assad's effort to conduct constitutional reforms is a smart move. I believe it should be accompanied by processes that allow the people to feel like they had a voice in what those reforms should address and that a new ROE would open the door to allowing more foreign governments to lend their support to the reform process.

As to the Saudis? They play a dangerous game, and I believe their direct involvement is a powerful indicator of just how nervous they are. Conditions of insurgency are very high in the Kingdom, and who knows what spark will set events in motion that overcomes the powerfully effective internal security mechanisms that keep them in check now. For the US, Saudi stability has long been a priority pillar for sustaining our interests in the region. The "ways" applied to secure that interest in the past are inappropriate for the emerging environment. Our Ends need to be stated simply as "stability" and we need to be much more flexible as to who leads the nation or how they lead the nation, so long as they maintain a more natural form of stability. The artificial stability we have backed so long is producing powerful negative effects (in many states, not just Arabia).

We are at the point where many governments must evolve and make compromises. Governments don't like that. Assad must compromise internally. Saudis must compromise internally. The US must compromise externally. The people are speaking, and governments can no longer discount those voices.

Dayuhan
02-29-2012, 05:00 AM
the question is "how does Syria get to a form of governance that serves a larger percentage, and that is more in synch with the expectations of a larger segment of the populace"?

That may be "the question" for Syrians, though it seems they are defining "the question" more in terms of whether or not Assad should go. I see no reason why it should be "the question" for the US to ask, nor any reason why it should be our business to define "the question" for Syrians.


I think Assad's effort to conduct constitutional reforms is a smart move. I believe it should be accompanied by processes that allow the people to feel like they had a voice in what those reforms should address and that a new ROE would open the door to allowing more foreign governments to lend their support to the reform process.

What "reform process" would that be, and what business would any foreign government have with it? I don't see any evidence of any "reform process" of any kind. This isn't about the Constitution, it's about Assad, who will do as he wishes regardless of what the Constitution says, until and unless he's overthrown.


As to the Saudis? They play a dangerous game, and I believe their direct involvement is a powerful indicator of just how nervous they are. Conditions of insurgency are very high in the Kingdom, and who knows what spark will set events in motion that overcomes the powerfully effective internal security mechanisms that keep them in check now.

I don't ee any connection between Saudi involvement in Syria and audi domestic politics. Seems to me the Saudis just see an easy low-risk chance to stick it to the Iranians indirectly, and want to exploit that opportunity. How would Saudi involvement in Syria alleviate any domestic issues? In fact the Saudi are relatively secure at home at this point - one reason why they're being a bit adventurous outside the borders - and the supposed "conditions of insurgency" are a lot lower than they were in the late 90s. That's less a function of internal security mechanisms than of the prosperity brought by high oil prices and by a widespread view among Saudis that disorder is scarier than tyranny. It's not an unreasonable view: they know they're sitting on something that everybody wants, and that internal instability would likely draw in the vultures. While the royals may not be popular, they do enjoy an intrinsic popular perception of hereditary legitimacy (incomprehensible to an American, but our opinions are irrelevant), and few alternatives have emerged hat have any popular support at all.


For the US, Saudi stability has long been a priority pillar for sustaining our interests in the region. The "ways" applied to secure that interest in the past are inappropriate for the emerging environment. Our Ends need to be stated simply as "stability" and we need to be much more flexible as to who leads the nation or how they lead the nation, so long as they maintain a more natural form of stability.

We need to be more flexible as the who leads the nation?? How is it any of our business? We don't decide who leads Saudi Arabia. For better or worse, the Saud family leads Saudi Arabia. They don't need our approval or help to maintain that rule, and our influence over how they rule is slim to none.


We are at the point where many governments must evolve and make compromises. Governments don't like that. Assad must compromise internally. Saudis must compromise internally. The US must compromise externally. The people are speaking, and governments can no longer discount those voices.

I suspect Assad is beyond the point of compromise. We can say what we will about what the audis "must" do, but they won't listen to us and we can't compel or persuade him to do anything they don't want to do, so there's little point in discussing it. As for us... well, people are indeed speaking, but they're saying a whole bunch of different things, many of them contradictory... as anyone reasonable would expect. As always, we'll listen to those who tell us what we want to hear, which makes compromise complicated.

The media in Homs are clearly trying to generate a "Benghazi moment", but I doubt that it'll work, at least not if "working" means generating direct foreign intervention. I don't think the US gives a rats ass about what the Russians or Chinese think, but the administration does have to notice what the voters think. Another military commitment would not go down well with Obama's base, and there's an election coming up... and without US participation it's difficult to see overt intervention happening. If it's gonna be covert, better let the Saudis do it.

ganulv
02-29-2012, 09:21 AM
I don't see any connection between Saudi involvement in Syria and Saudi domestic politics. Seems to me the Saudis just see an easy low-risk chance to stick it to the Iranians indirectly, and want to exploit that opportunity.
If you had to guess whether anyone is going to stand up to a Shiite government battering a city full of Sunnis aren’t the Saudis guesses one, two, and three?


I don't think the US gives a rats ass about what the Russians […] think, but the administration does have to notice what the voters think.
Ergo the missile shield (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/02/nato-missile-defense/).

Bob's World
02-29-2012, 02:18 PM
That may be "the question" for Syrians, though it seems they are defining "the question" more in terms of whether or not Assad should go. I see no reason why it should be "the question" for the US to ask, nor any reason why it should be our business to define "the question" for Syrians.

I am not "the US," I'm just a guy expressing my opinion on what the question for the Syrians should be.

What "reform process" would that be, and what business would any foreign government have with it? I don't see any evidence of any "reform process" of any kind. This isn't about the Constitution, it's about Assad, who will do as he wishes regardless of what the Constitution says, until and unless he's overthrown.

Taking out Assad is a "reform process" but not likely to be a very stable or effective one for the Syrian people. Assad implenting true reforms linked to acutal perceptions of grievance of the rebelling populaces, while sustaining support of non-rebelling populaces would be better. A constitution can help get at that, but it really depends on the content and nature of the document and the degree of trust and buy-in across the populace. I haven't seen anything that indicateds Assad sought that input, so I doubt it will have that buy-in. My comment was that I think he should have been more transparent and inclusive in the process for best effect.

I don't ee any connection between Saudi involvement in Syria and audi domestic politics. Seems to me the Saudis just see an easy low-risk chance to stick it to the Iranians indirectly, and want to exploit that opportunity. How would Saudi involvement in Syria alleviate any domestic issues? In fact the Saudi are relatively secure at home at this point - one reason why they're being a bit adventurous outside the borders - and the supposed "conditions of insurgency" are a lot lower than they were in the late 90s. That's less a function of internal security mechanisms than of the prosperity brought by high oil prices and by a widespread view among Saudis that disorder is scarier than tyranny. It's not an unreasonable view: they know they're sitting on something that everybody wants, and that internal instability would likely draw in the vultures. While the royals may not be popular, they do enjoy an intrinsic popular perception of hereditary legitimacy (incomprehensible to an American, but our opinions are irrelevant), and few alternatives have emerged hat have any popular support at all.

Countries act based on their perceptions of their interests. Saudi Arabia acts on the percptions of the interests of the Saudi family. That is significantly different. They don't typically act openly to support such events, they are now. There is a reason. My belief is that it is related to their growing concerns over their own ability to sustain security at home. Reasonable minds may differ, and I certainly have not discussed this with the King

We need to be more flexible as the who leads the nation?? How is it any of our business? We don't decide who leads Saudi Arabia. For better or worse, the Saud family leads Saudi Arabia. They don't need our approval or help to maintain that rule, and our influence over how they rule is slim to none.

We felt it was "our business" in 1945 and committed ourselves to sustaining the Saudi family as part of our bargain for special access and influence in the Kingdom. More accurately it was the "ways" we applied to secure our national interests in the Arab penninsula. My comment is simply to note that I believe those "ways" are in need of a major refresh; one based in a stated position of our wilingness to work with any form of government in power there regardless of who leads it. Stable oil prices are "our business" and approaches that used to work to produce that are not working so well in the modern age.

I suspect Assad is beyond the point of compromise. We can say what we will about what the audis "must" do, but they won't listen to us and we can't compel or persuade him to do anything they don't want to do, so there's little point in discussing it. As for us... well, people are indeed speaking, but they're saying a whole bunch of different things, many of them contradictory... as anyone reasonable would expect. As always, we'll listen to those who tell us what we want to hear, which makes compromise complicated.

He is compromising, so clearly not "beyond the point." Is it too little too late? Quite likely. I agree that the people are saying many things. It is just noise. Let them pick trusted representatives of their many facets and allow them a forum to express those positions more clearly and to shape a constitution and how Syria transitions over time to a leader wanted by the majority of the people. That may well turn out to be Assad.

The media in Homs are clearly trying to generate a "Benghazi moment", but I doubt that it'll work, at least not if "working" means generating direct foreign intervention. I don't think the US gives a rats ass about what the Russians or Chinese think, but the administration does have to notice what the voters think. Another military commitment would not go down well with Obama's base, and there's an election coming up... and without US participation it's difficult to see overt intervention happening. If it's gonna be covert, better let the Saudis do it.

As usual, a mix of violent agreement, and misinterpretation of the intent of many of my comments as seen through your perspective and experience. If the US should do anything it should be to encourage a mediation. Clearly the Saudis are not the best choice. Perhaps Turkey. Urge a ceasefire and talks. That is neutral. We will need to work with whomever emerges, so best to not put all our money on one color. When we do that we usually reach out and stop the wheel where we want it to stop, and that leads to bigger problems over time.

J Wolfsberger
02-29-2012, 03:04 PM
Clearly the Saudis are not the best choice. Perhaps Turkey.

Two observations:

1. Turks are not Arabs. There is a blood rivalry that would surface almost immediately.

2. Ottoman Empire. This is a region full of people who can still get themselves in a lather over the Crusades - which they won over 700 years ago. The Empire has been gone less than 100, so there is still widespread distrust of the Turks based on a belief that the Turks would like to reestablish the old Empire.

Events in Syria, and especially Homs, are a tragedy. But it isn't our tragedy. I strongly suspect that the only role the U.S. could play by getting actively (i.e. militarily) involved is "useful idiot."

Bob's World
02-29-2012, 03:26 PM
As I said "Perhaps Turkey."

Yes, Syria was once part of the Ottoman Empire, but it was the decision of European leaders, not Syrian leaders to end that relationship. I suspect Turkey as a rising regional power is still the best bet for having the right mix of influence; shared history, culture and interests; and has itself gone down the road of governmental reform, beginning over 100 years ago, so has a much greater empathy for the challenges faced in Syria than the US or Saudi's or any others I can think of.

I think there are too many teetering states in the region, states with artifical stability enforced through state power, to simply let events such as are going down in Syria play to a natural, bloody end of survival of the fittest. Also there are too many interests of powerful states elsewhere also in the balance. Some action is necessary, but so far we have opted for approaches base far too much on US perspectives and far too shaped by our "knowledge" of what worked in the past, rather than an understanding that we need to evolve to ways better tailored to the world as it exists and is evolving today.

Any type of direct US involvement as lead is a bad idea. Military intervention is a very bad idea. We need to step above the fray, and act consistently with our express principles as a nation as we work to secure our interests in that region. There are surely strong, reasonable voices in Syria. How to best give help create the opportunity for them to step forward and be heard is the challenge. A credible 3rd party in needed, and if truly credible, then ceasefire should be possible as well. Move this beyond "action and reaction" violently and get to interaction. This is hard, but not impossible.

But if we think calling for one side or another to step down, or see military intervention as our only two plays, we are unlikely to achieve the ends we seek through those ways and means. At least not in any enduring, and legitimate way.

tequila
02-29-2012, 05:28 PM
Hamas ditches Assad, backs Syria revolt (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/hamas-ditches-assad-backs-syria-revolt-1.414701)

Hamas sees the writing on the wall - maybe seeing Jordan and Turkey as new sponsors? Will more moderate sponsors lead to a more moderate Hamas?

J Wolfsberger
02-29-2012, 07:09 PM
Hamas ditches Assad, backs Syria revolt (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/hamas-ditches-assad-backs-syria-revolt-1.414701)

Hamas sees the writing on the wall - maybe seeing Jordan and Turkey as new sponsors? Will more moderate sponsors lead to a more moderate Hamas?

Conceivably. But I'm more concerned that a more radical protégé would lead to a more radical Jordan or Turkey.

Dayuhan
02-29-2012, 10:16 PM
If the US should do anything it should be to encourage a mediation. Clearly the Saudis are not the best choice. Perhaps Turkey. Urge a ceasefire and talks. That is neutral. We will need to work with whomever emerges, so best to not put all our money on one color. When we do that we usually reach out and stop the wheel where we want it to stop, and that leads to bigger problems over time.

The Saudi are not the best choice? Who says we get to choose?

Given that neither side shows any inclination to negotiate, why call for something we can't make happen? Wouldn't that just underscore our impotence?

Bob's World
02-29-2012, 10:51 PM
The Saudi are not the best choice? Who says we get to choose?

Given that neither side shows any inclination to negotiate, why call for something we can't make happen? Wouldn't that just underscore our impotence?

Again, who ever said I said that WE would chose??? Where do you get these ideas?

All I said the US should do is encourage mediation.

Dayuhan
03-01-2012, 12:21 AM
Again, who ever said I said that WE would chose??? Where do you get these ideas?

I got the idea from these sentences:


If the US should do anything it should be to encourage a mediation. Clearly the Saudis are not the best choice.

Again, I see little to be gained by urging mediation when neither party wants it and we've no power to make it happen. Just makes us look impotent. Not much to be mediated, either: if Assad stays, under any terms, he wins and the opposition loses. If he goes, he loses and the opposition wins, though they will presumably fragment as soon as they do. What's to mediate?

Bob's World
03-01-2012, 12:46 AM
I got the idea from these sentences:



Again, I see little to be gained by urging mediation when neither party wants it and we've no power to make it happen. Just makes us look impotent. Not much to be mediated, either: if Assad stays, under any terms, he wins and the opposition loses. If he goes, he loses and the opposition wins, though they will presumably fragment as soon as they do. What's to mediate?

I have not idea what "neither party wants", and neither do you. That is your opinion. My opinion is that most Syrians prefer a peaceful way of getting to a better future; and Assad is showing indications of being open to some degree of reasonable compromise. This is not about Assad winning or losing, this is, for Syrians, about getting to a better situation of governance. If they can do that without breaking what they have in place now they will be better off. The idea that creating a power vacuum is the best first step to getting to better governance is not one I would advocate.

For the US it is simply about not having an unstable situation expand to where it disrupts vital interests in the region. We profess we want to exercise "global leadership." I find that to have a great deal of hubris to it, but if we are to lead, then I recommend we find some more effective approaches than those applied over the past several years. There is little reputation or influence at stake is we publicly recommend that Assad engage his people in guided talks, and that he should initiate a ceasefire as a show of good faith. No "or else" at the end that we have to back up. He will get his "or else" from his own populace in good time if he continues on this path. In the recent path we have opted for regime change, calling for regime change, and providing air power to support regime change. I would put all of those well down on any list of COAs. We do not want to make an enemy of a state or a populace either one unnecessarily; but if the choice is pissing off a weak state or a strong populace, piss off the state. At least we have effective tools for dealing with enemy states. We're still shooting at noises in the dark when it comes to non-state threats.

As to my opinion that the Saudis are not a good choice, that is my opinion. I certainly never said we should pick or work to exclude any party from that role, just that IMO some would be more effective than others.

Dayuhan
03-01-2012, 03:01 AM
I have not idea what "neither party wants", and neither do you. That is your opinion.

Observe the actions of the parties involved. Do they suggest to you that anybody in the picture is terribly amenable to compromise?


my opinion is that most Syrians prefer a peaceful way of getting to a better future; and Assad is showing indications of being open to some degree of reasonable compromise.

How exactly has Assad shown "indications of being open to some degree of reasonable compromise"? I see no such indications. Do note that offering paper "reforms" or changing some words in a Constitution isn't compromise.


This is not about Assad winning or losing, this is, for Syrians, about getting to a better situation of governance. If they can do that without breaking what they have in place now they will be better off. The idea that creating a power vacuum is the best first step to getting to better governance is not one I would advocate.

I think it's gone beyond the point where talk and compromise are going anywhere. The regime has killed thousands of its own citizens: that's not a place you can step back from. It's all about Assad now: either he stays and wins or goes and loses. The lines are drawn and people have taken sides. There may have been a point when compromise was possible, but it's long past... yes, that's my opinion, but really, is any other conclusion possible?

US backing for any "solution" that involves Assad continuing in power will be interpreted and perceived as US support for Assad, no way to avoid that no matter what the fine print says. At this point if we don't want to take sides we have to say nothing at all, and even that will be seen as support for the status quo.


For the US it is simply about not having an unstable situation expand to where it disrupts vital interests in the region.

Too late for that; the disruption is already there and it's not going away.

Ken White
03-01-2012, 05:21 AM
However, I have no doubt there are a slew of folks inside and just outside the Beltway who want us to have an interest. :rolleyes:

Governance is not the issue and the Assad family isn't going to compromise. It'll get worse before it gets better...

Not our yob. :cool:

JMA
03-01-2012, 07:23 AM
However, I have no doubt there are a slew of folks inside and just outside the Beltway who want us to have an interest. :rolleyes:

Governance is not the issue and the Assad family isn't going to compromise. It'll get worse before it gets better...

Not our yob. :cool:

Two cruise missiles is all it will take... ;)

ganulv
03-01-2012, 02:39 PM
Two cruise missiles is all it will take...
to open the floodgates, I am afraid. The Assads are the sheriff of a rough town (http://youtu.be/_bLR04OkC-I?t=2m13s). That doesn’t mean Syria couldn’t do better. But the Assads’ supporters are probably considering the Lebanese Civil War and Iraq five years ago and thinking they could do worse.

Ken White
03-01-2012, 02:45 PM
Two cruise missiles is all it will take... ;)It also evades the point that there are no US interests involved... ;)

All two Missiles would create is power vacuum. Those currently exist in Egypt and Libya and you want to add another? I have no quarrel with the point that Assad needs to be dead -- it's just not beneficial for anyone in the world for the US to make that happen. It's up to the Syrians to do that, hopefully assisted by others in the neighborhood.

All you folks from other nations rail about the dysfunctional, overweight, over wealthy, overbearing US that affects most of the world adversely all too often -- and then scream for US intervention in places and doing things that are none of our business and which generally exacerbate local problems instead of solving them.

One can say that if we 'did it right' that would not be a problem. The fact is that we can rarely if ever 'do it right' due to our governmental systems and processes. They were designed for US internal use and work well for that; they were designed to AVOID foreign entanglements and they also work well for that. Trouble is encountered when those design parameters are ignored... :wry:

Even Bob's World too often ignores that harsh reality by insisting that we can do things elsewhere, we just need to do it his way -- that's wrong, too -- the US is too big to ever do much in any one person's way and the system is purposely designed to preclude long term efforts of any type. We can do sharp quick raids for immediate policy concerns. We have never successfully been able to engage in long term efforts in or with other nations -- and I say that as one who has spent a good many years assisting in the implementation of US efforts in a number of other nations on four continents. The best of intentions elsewhere will always get trumped and changed by US domestic political concerns and that lack of ability to provide continuity mean we should endeavor to not interfere elsewhere unless the effort will be quick. Difficulty and costs are not issues, speed and success are -- or should be.

J Wolfsberger
03-01-2012, 03:03 PM
Two cruise missiles is all it will take... ;)

Then by all means ask your SANDF to launch them.

If you are suggesting the U.S. take the lead, then no thanks. Because then it will be our weapons, fired by our sailors and airmen, under our rules, to achieve our goals. I'm fairly certain that isn't what you want. We tried to be the world police and quite a few of us are not very happy with how that worked out. It seems to cost us much treasure, the most important element of which is the lives of our men and women in uniform, only to be met with scathing condemnation.

Speaking only for myself, the great problem I have with the notions of the "world community" or the "family of nations" is that there is no community and the family is lethally dysfunctional. When that changes, my opinion might also.

Syria is a tragedy. It will get much worse. It is unlikely to get better for a long time to come.

But it is not OUR tragedy.

JMA
03-01-2012, 04:32 PM
to open the floodgates, I am afraid. The Assads are the sheriff of a rough town (http://youtu.be/_bLR04OkC-I?t=2m13s). That doesn’t mean Syria couldn’t do better. But the Assads’ supporters are probably considering the Lebanese Civil War and Iraq five years ago and thinking they could do worse.

Don't think you were there when I first raised this in the 'Ivory Coast' thread, so here we go:


It is time to stop pussy-footing around and apply JMA's 3-Cruise-Missile-Option.

With some sections of the army wavering (it appears) the first missile targets the barracks of the most loyal unit to Gbagbo - do it now, tomorrow.

The second with 12 hours warning targets the current location of Gbagbo himself - he won't be there but will get the message strength 5.

Thereafter the word is put out that there's a $1m for the person who provides Gbagbo's location as a target for the third missile.

JMA
03-01-2012, 04:55 PM
Then by all means ask your SANDF to launch them.

If you are suggesting the U.S. take the lead, then no thanks.

The SANDF is a joke. Why you felt the need to throw that into the conversation only you would know.

I do understand your sensitivity about the continued inability of the US to either figure out an intelligent way to intervene or to interevene in an effective manner. Chin up, learn from the Brit loss of empire and drift from 'hero to zero' gracefully.

I do feel so very sorry for US forces below the rank of Lt Col, their efforts and sacrifices should not have been fritted away as if they did not matter.

JMA
03-01-2012, 05:10 PM
It also evades the point that there are no US interests involved... ;)

I would have thought the US interests were clear. Avoid confrontation with China and Russia at all costs.

J Wolfsberger
03-01-2012, 05:14 PM
The SANDF is a joke. Why you felt the need to throw that into the conversation only you would know.

"Location: Durban, South Africa"

If you want to intervene, feel free to do it with your country's armed forces, not ours.


I do understand your sensitivity about the continued inability of the US to either figure out an intelligent way to intervene or to interevene in an effective manner. Chin up, learn from the Brit loss of empire and drift from 'hero to zero' gracefully.

I do feel so very sorry for US forces below the rank of Lt Col, their efforts and sacrifices should not have been fritted away as if they did not matter.

Thank you for reinforcing my point.

ganulv
03-01-2012, 05:20 PM
Don't think you were there when I first raised this in the 'Ivory Coast' thread, so here we go:
Actually! the Ivory Coast thread is what lead me to this forum. IINM the proposal in regards to LG was made in the context of the FN’s build up and/or movement towards Abidjan. It was clear that Gbagbo was going to be gone sooner or later regardless and it seemed reasonable to expect that his inevitable exit would be marked by an improved situation in the short term and possibly in the medium term, as well. (As for the long term, well, it is Africa so let’s not be too sanguine.) But I just don’t think the same is true in the case of Assad and Syria.

JMA
03-01-2012, 06:12 PM
It was clear that Gbagbo was going to be gone sooner or later regardless ...

Regardless of the death and destruction in the meantime?

JMA
03-01-2012, 06:29 PM
"Location: Durban, South Africa"

If you want to intervene, feel free to do it with your country's armed forces.

If I personally believe there should be an intervention in Syria (as I did in Libya) I am entitled to say so.

Sadly such interventions (no matter how noble in intent) get a bad wrap when they get screwed up (as the US led effort in Libya was). Seldom is it the intent that is the problem but rather the politicians and the generals/admirals who display incompetence on a grand scale.

As the balance of power shifts further away from the US you will see that the world will become used the the increasing impotence of the US.

Personally I am sad about the slide of the US (as I was when it happened to the Brits).

ganulv
03-01-2012, 07:00 PM
[Gbagbo was going to be gone sooner or later r]egardless of the dead and destruction in the meantime?
Well, yeah. Every day Gbagbo remained obstinate (or delusional) was another day of a degree of death and destruction that wouldn’t have been present had he stepped aside or been put down. What I was trying to express was that your proposal has/had more merit in the context of the Ivorian conflict given that Gbagbo’s exit is/was a fait accompli. LG had spent the previous decade alienating the international community as a whole and his internal support was diminished to the point he was putting mercenaries on the books.* And there was at least a reasonable clue as to what the post–Gbagbo political and social framework would look like and it looked better than it did with him on the scene. I just don’t see how those conditions hold for the al–Assad family.

*Note to current and future strongmen: the moment at which you start seriously considering paying mercenaries to help keep you in the palace is exactly the moment at which you need to start shelling out to someone willing and able to help you sneak out of it under cover of darkness.

Ken White
03-01-2012, 08:21 PM
I would have thought the US interests were clear. Avoid confrontation with China and Russia at all costs.Nah, that's just your interpretation. We have and continue to actively seek confrontation short of war with them. War is sensibly avoided by anyone but probes and small jabs are acceptable and used. If you don't see them, you just aren't paying attention.

As to this:
I do understand your sensitivity about the continued inability of the US to either figure out an intelligent way to intervene or to interevene in an effective manner. Chin up, learn from the Brit loss of empire and drift from 'hero to zero' gracefully.The issue is not how or if, it is what the US polity will support. That polity is fractured by design just to avoid petty and unnecessary interventions -- the majority of which fail in their purpose in any event. Think Iraq where we did go and Libya where, much to your chagrin and my satisfaction, we didn't go (as far as most know)... :eek:

As J Wolfsberger wrote, thanks for reinforcing his point with your admission of such interventions frittering away the troops for no good reason. That's a good assessment. :D

As for the drift from hero to zero; been predicted (wrongly) for years. Certainly bound to happen sooner or later -- but I bet it will not happen in your lifetime or mine. Nor even my kids; Grandkids -- maybe the youngest who's seven; Great Grandson, probably... :cool: ;)

JMA
03-02-2012, 04:01 AM
I just don’t see how those conditions hold for the al–Assad family.

Yes we are rapidly reaching the point where the shrill panicky voices screaming 'better the devil you know' are clamouring to save the Assad families ass. (Does anyone know whether the Assad family have hired some smart US PR company to sell this crock?)

JMA
03-02-2012, 04:56 AM
Nah, that's just your interpretation. We have and continue to actively seek confrontation short of war with them. War is sensibly avoided by anyone but probes and small jabs are acceptable and used. If you don't see them, you just aren't paying attention.

Nah Ken, it seems that Americans desperately want to believe that there is someone 'at the wheel' of the US ship of state to the extent of delusion... when the rest of the world can clearly see that with that Laurel and Hardy show (State Department and CIA) guiding the ship the US is becoming less relevant by the year. It's a slow irreversible process but it is sure.


As to this:The issue is not how or if, it is what the US polity will support. That polity is fractured by design just to avoid petty and unnecessary interventions -- the majority of which fail in their purpose in any event. Think Iraq where we did go and Libya where, much to your chagrin and my satisfaction, we didn't go (as far as most know)... :eek:

Ken you keep talking as if interventions were a bad thing per se. While I have repeatedly said such interventions get a bad name because (through inept and incompetent handling) they continue to fail.

IMHO intervention was needed in Libya... so did the US Administration.

Where you and I differed (I believe) Ken was that I thought 'how can the US possibly screw this one up' while you knew they could and they would (boots on the ground or not). That is when the last flickering flame of hope I held for the US finally died.

The world watches (some with glee and some in horror) as the President of the US and the Sec of State etc prove to be totally inept in international affairs. The question is who will fill the vacuum... and how soon?


As J Wolfsberger wrote, thanks for reinforcing his point with your admission of such interventions frittering away the troops for no good reason. That's a good assessment. :D

Correction. My point is that it is the manner the intervention is executed that leads to lives of soldiers being frittered away and not the intervention itself (which may be warranted and justified).


As for the drift from hero to zero; been predicted (wrongly) for years. Certainly bound to happen sooner or later -- but I bet it will not happen in your lifetime or mine. Nor even my kids; Grandkids -- maybe the youngest who's seven; Great Grandson, probably... :cool: ;)

There are none so blind as those who will not see. Being nearly 60, in my short life I have seen the US slide in power through my own eyes. It is obviously too humiliating for most Americans to acknowledge.

Don't worry about your great grandchildren, make sure your grandchildren are taught to say 'Sir' in Chinese and how to bow and scrape for what the world is witnessing are the last kicks or a dying horse.

Ken White
03-02-2012, 06:59 AM
Nah Ken, it seems that Americans desperately want to believe that there is someone 'at the wheel' of the US ship of state to the extent of delusion... when the rest of the world can clearly see that with that Laurel and Hardy show (State Department and CIA) guiding the ship the US is becoming less relevant by the year. It's a slow irreversible process but it is sure.You don't pay attention very well -- I've been telling you just that for a couple of years. I've also been telling you that it is by design and most of us are okay with that. We realize it adversely impacts our conduct of foreign affairs but are willing to tolerate that for domestic purposes.
Ken you keep talking as if interventions were a bad thing per se. While I have repeatedly said such interventions get a bad name because (through inept and incompetent handling) they continue to fail.Again, you aren't paying attention -- I've been telling you that interventions are a bad thing and don't work very well simply because they will usually end up with ineptitude ruling what occurs. IOW, that ineptitude and incompetence are precisely why they should be avoided. The response to that is fix the problems -- not going to happen; it is acceptable and idealistic to want them to be fixed but it is totally unrealistic to expect that they will be (note that they can be fixed, its just that they will not be...). Also again, the US political system is virtually designed to be that dysfunctional and even without that, normal human foibles insure that incompetency is prevalent in 50% of all endeavors.
IMHO intervention was needed in Libya... so did the US Administration...The world watches (some with glee and some in horror) as the President of the US and the Sec of State etc prove to be totally inept in international affairs. The question is who will fill the vacuum... and how soon?Not going to happen. International affairs for the US are, rightly or wrongly (that latter in my view...), an afterthought to US domestic politics. The concerns and / or glee of the world are noted or known and are ignored because all those other six billion people don't vote in US elections. Many think that's stupid -- all should acknowledge it's reality.

To return to Libya, that was an example -- a predictable one -- of the lack of acumen of some US power brokers. :D

Yes, I did say it would be screwed up -- I'm still waiting for someone to name me any armed and combative intervention by third parties that did actually work...
Correction. My point is that it is the manner the intervention is executed that leads to lives of soldiers being frittered away and not the intervention itself (which may be warranted and justified).True and I know that -- but my point is that interventions will ALWAYS be screwed up, thus the Troops will always be frittered away for no good result often and almost never for a result that justifies the costs in all terms.

As for warranted and justified, that is very much a personal preference determination. No government (and the US in particular) is ever going to come to a unanimous, consensual, no arguments position on such actions and those opposed will attempt to stymie, politically interfere or sabotage to one extent or another as best they are able. That factor will always intrude if history is any guide.
There are none so blind as those who will not see. Being nearly 60, in my short life I have seen the US slide in power through my own eyes. It is obviously too humiliating for most Americans to acknowledge.With near 20/20 vision and over 20 years more experience observing, I've seen that as well. Unlike you, I see it as acceptable, predictable, and totally unavoidable. I have also noted that the slide is not a constant angle but a series of waves both upward and downward with an overall downward trend that gets reversed when we think we just have to do something -- that doesn't happen too often and we are maturing a bit -- slowly to be sure -- so we tend to not get overwrought about aging and declining abilities -- happens to all of us as you'll soon note if you have not already. :D

To my mind, most Americans are very much aware of that decline, there seems to be general agreement that it is occurring so it is seen and while painful to some, it is less so to others. What to do about it is another issue altogether and there is little consensus on what should be done barring an existential problem and none of those seem to be on the horizon.
Don't worry about your great grandchildren, make sure your grandchildren are taught to say 'Sir' in Chinese and how to bow and scrape for what the world is witnessing are the last kicks or a dying horse.We can differ on that, no question of talking past each other. The "world" has been "witnessing" that since 1945 and to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, reports of our impending death have been greatly exaggerated. If the kids learn Chinese, it'll be most likely be in order to buy or sell something there. ;)

Descendants engaged in petty commerce is more worrisome to me than Chinese world hegemony -- which, BTW, I doubt is wanted or will happen. :cool:

JMA
03-02-2012, 07:10 AM
Coming back to address this:


All you folks from other nations rail about the dysfunctional, overweight, over wealthy, overbearing US that affects most of the world adversely all too often -- and then scream for US intervention in places and doing things that are none of our business and which generally exacerbate local problems instead of solving them.

Then quite simply, the US should stop talking and posturing as if it is the 'leader of the free world'. The world is merely calling your bluff, saying if you are the world leader you profess to be... then do something... and quite often (sadly) you can't or if you do you screw it up.


One can say that if we 'did it right' that would not be a problem. The fact is that we can rarely if ever 'do it right' due to our governmental systems and processes. They were designed for US internal use and work well for that; they were designed to AVOID foreign entanglements and they also work well for that. Trouble is encountered when those design parameters are ignored... :wry:

Not a good enough excuse. The US system is dysfunctional and that's the end of it.

We have covered this before at the the political/military interface and at the lower command levels within the military where it appears to have reached the status of a national characteristic where people (I don't want to use the word leader here) are unable to delegate (the execution) without interference and micromanagement. There IMHO lies the problem.


Even Bob's World too often ignores that harsh reality by insisting that we can do things elsewhere, we just need to do it his way -- that's wrong, too -- the US is too big to ever do much in any one person's way and the system is purposely designed to preclude long term efforts of any type.

Bob's World takes us into the world of the think-tanks and talk-shops. Its all hypothetical and nothing is real. I mentioned to him before that he is thinking at a level above the realities on the ground (which I think he took as a compliment).

My point is essentially that if the (US and the Brits) have proved to be unable to beat the IED threat (or at least significantly mitigate against it) then the message sent to the world is that the US is good only for a 'Thunder Run' into Baghdad or massive bombing like in the early days in Afghanistan.
(The rest of NATO deal with the IED problem by not leaving camp very often - which is quite pathetic)

Which leads us to the Colin Powell statement 'if you break it you own it' (or something like that). Nonsense. So if Gadaffi and/or Assad go (or are visited by some precision guided HE) and Libya/Syria revert to feuding tribes whose problem is that? All it would take is two cruise missiles (the third one you would never need to use). Cheap at the price.


We can do sharp quick raids for immediate policy concerns. We have never successfully been able to engage in long term efforts in or with other nations -- and I say that as one who has spent a good many years assisting in the implementation of US efforts in a number of other nations on four continents. The best of intentions elsewhere will always get trumped and changed by US domestic political concerns and that lack of ability to provide continuity mean we should endeavor to not interfere elsewhere unless the effort will be quick. Difficulty and costs are not issues, speed and success are -- or should be.

We have agreed on this before.

J Wolfsberger
03-02-2012, 12:40 PM
So if Gadaffi and/or Assad go (or are visited by some precision guided HE) and Libya/Syria revert to feuding tribes whose problem is that? All it would take is two cruise missiles (the third one you would never need to use). Cheap at the price.

Since this is the central issue, I'll offer an answer.

It will be the problem of the people caught in the middle of those warring tribes. And I'll bet that they'll blame whoever launched the cruise missiles and upended what ever degree of safety, stability and predictability their lives used to hold.

It will be the problem of the country that launched those cruise missiles. I'll bet even more that the warring tribes will alternate between blaming whoever launched the missiles and trying to get military and economic aid from them. And they will lash out at the country they've decided to blame for their problems.

It will also be a huge problem for the U.S. if we launch the missiles. I'll set aside our dysfunctional domestic politics because this isn't an appropriate forum. I, nternational I don't see any groundswell of public support for the U.S. getting involved in Syria. But I'm absolutely certain that if we did, we would see a groundswell of international condemnation.

No, but thank you anyway.

One lesson from Iraq, Afghanistan and any number of third world interventions should by now be crystal clear to everyone: None of these third world horror shows, on any continent, are going to change until the people who live in them bring about the change on their own.

The problems are defined by a lot of interrelated factors and manifested in a variety of symptoms, but the reality is that for the inhabitant of those countries, they are caused by his government, his tribe, his friends, his neighbors, his co-workers, and the people he worships with on the weekend. The only thing accomplished by third party intervention is providing him a convenient outsider to blame so he can avoid facing up to that reality.

You can go on until the cows wander home about our refusal to act as evidence of U.S. decline. I see it as a refusal to play the patsy.

Dayuhan
03-02-2012, 01:11 PM
There are none so blind as those who will not see. Being nearly 60, in my short life I have seen the US slide in power through my own eyes. It is obviously too humiliating for most Americans to acknowledge.

Don't worry about your great grandchildren, make sure your grandchildren are taught to say 'Sir' in Chinese and how to bow and scrape for what the world is witnessing are the last kicks or a dying horse.

The decline of the US, to the infinitely arguable extent to which it exists, is a consequence of domestic economic failure. Overseas interventions are a largely irrelevant sideshow and have little or nothing to do with US influence on the larger scale. Sending troops or cruise missiles into disordered backwaters is not going to boost American influence or reverse any hypothetical decline, no matter how it's executed. It just doesn't matter very much.

I see no particular reason to fear the Chinese, but since you evidently do, and seem to see the capacity for military intervention as a critical indicator of ascendancy, you might ask yourself how the Chinese have inspired such fear despite a notable disinclination toward military intervention.

Why would the US want to intervene in Syria? What have we to gain?

The default US position on military intervention overseas logically must be "just don't do it". That default might be set aside if there's sufficiently compelling reason... but is there any compelling reason for the US to intervene in Syria? Any reason at all?

davidbfpo
03-02-2012, 03:03 PM
The latest Strategic Comment:http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-18-2012/march/syria-inevitable-descent-into-civil-war/

It ends with:
Such trends as the militarisation of the opposition and the entry into the fray of Syria's neighbours would be immensely difficult to stop or shape. The real challenge for the international community is to decide how to contain a possibly contagious collapse of Syria.

J Wolfsberger
03-02-2012, 03:46 PM
The latest Strategic Comment:http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-18-2012/march/syria-inevitable-descent-into-civil-war/

A typically knowledgeable, well reasoned and incisive product from IISS. Two things stood out the most:


To mobilise his own community and scare other minorities into supporting him, Assad has had to fracture the Syrian polity in irremediable ways: the state purposely cultivates tensions and rifts within society, and its security services often operate as occupation forces. Syrians of all political persuasions are finding ways of circumventing the state apparatus in order to cope, organise and survive.

Which reinforces the likelihood Assad will win the current round, with much bloodshed. But the additional cost will be the complete and most likely permanent fragmentation of civil society. The consequence will be for things to become much, much worse in the inevitable next time around. Assad will eventually lose power, the questions are when, and how much damage will he do in on the way out.


The prospect of foreign intervention has proven very divisive among Syrians, Arabs and the international community. Desperate Syrians are calling for intervention to protect civilians, often without defining its scope, requirements or the possible identity of the intervening party; others resist this idea on principle or because of the experience of Iraq.

Which is precisely why I've been arguing against any U.S. involvement. There is no way we can do anything without becoming, yet again, the villains of the piece.

Ken White
03-02-2012, 05:47 PM
Then quite simply, the US should stop talking and posturing as if it is the 'leader of the free world'. The world is merely calling your bluff, saying if you are the world leader you profess to be... then do something... and quite often (sadly) you can't or if you do you screw it up.True. However, I suggest the "Having one's cake and eating it too" syndrome is alive and well and not restricted to the US. You might also note that we often confuse the 'can't' and 'screw it up' issues... :D
Not a good enough excuse. The US system is dysfunctional and that's the end of it.You're funny. It's not an excuse, it is a simple statement of fact which I've made repeatedly, you keep trying to make into an apologia. It is not. I and most Americans are very much aware of that dysfunction, more so than most overseas but most of us are not apologetic about it nor do we state the obvious as an excuse, it just is. The process works acceptably for most of us and while many of us regret the turmoil thus induced in other nations, we don't regret that enough to dispense with the internal to us benefits. Functional, efficient government has been proven to be unhealthy or uncomfortable for many citizens. Look at it not as an excuse but as a shoulder shrug and "Yep. Tough..." Selfish of us but that's the way it is.
We have covered this before at the the political/military interface and at the lower command levels within the military where it appears to have reached the status of a national characteristic where people (I don't want to use the word leader here) are unable to delegate (the execution) without interference and micromanagement. There IMHO lies the problem.We not only covered it we agreed. Apparently still do.
Bob's World takes us into the world of the think-tanks and talk-shops. Its all hypothetical and nothing is real. I mentioned to him before that he is thinking at a level above the realities on the ground (which I think he took as a compliment).Probably -- I have to keep reminding him of that dysfunctional governmental model as well. :wry:
My point is essentially that if the (US and the Brits) have proved to be ... pathetic)Guilty as charged. The fact that no one else could have done a bit better is not much solace.
Which leads us to the Colin Powell statement 'if you break it you own it' (or something like that). Nonsense ... All it would take is two cruise missiles (the third one you would never need to use). Cheap at the price.Agree on the nonsense. On the other, you get what you pay for... ;)

As J Wolfsberger wrote: "...None of these third world horror shows, on any continent, are going to change until the people who live in them bring about the change on their own ... The only thing accomplished by third party intervention is providing him a convenient outsider to blame so he can avoid facing up to that reality ... You can go on until the cows wander home about our refusal to act as evidence of U.S. decline. I see it as a refusal to play the patsy." Just so. :cool:

Merits also echoing Dayuhan's words. This should be noted by many, not least the policy wonks in DC, all the humanitarianly R2P types and the so-called Strategists of the world:


""Sending troops or cruise missiles into disordered backwaters is not going to boost American influence or reverse any hypothetical decline, no matter how it's executed. It just doesn't matter very much.""

.

Uboat509
03-02-2012, 05:54 PM
You can go on until the cows wander home about our refusal to act as evidence of U.S. decline. I see it as a refusal to play the patsy.

I would have to agree, more or less. I am not sure that the reason is so clear as a refusal to play the patsy. That supposes that our government has learned a clear lesson about intervening in the internal problems of another state in which we have no tangible interests. I suspect that reluctance to be seen as the party that got the US involved in another war has more to do with the "refusal to act" than does anything else. The interventionist impulses are still there but suppressed by the current political climate. How long they will remain suppressed is anyone's guess, probably as long as the economy is still a concern and as long as Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh in people's memories at the very least.

Ken White
03-02-2012, 06:19 PM
Domestic politics are the determinant. There are some hard heads who aren't willing to play that patsy bit but there are some who are more than willing to do so. Who wins in that argument depends quite heavily on the current mood in the US. Sad but true.

Bob's World
03-03-2012, 03:43 AM
Go away for a couple days and come back to all kinds of crossfires and verbal fratricide. Appears that everyone knows exactly what the right answer is, what the Syrian people and leadership are thinking, and yet all are in very divergent camps as to what that is.

Is it too late for them to step back from the abyss? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I suspect most on both sides of the issue would prefer a peaceful solution if they felt they could trust in some process to get there. Trust is perhaps the commodity in shortest supply.

Is there a credible third party who could step in and become an agent adequately trusted by both sides to get to some compromised position? Perhaps. France has a growing influence in the region in recent years, but also has a very direct history in this particular location. I don't know if that is good or bad, but I would suspect the latter. Turkey also has a very direct history and shares a closer connection. Perhaps both are too close. As Ken says, the US has no direct interests in Syria. Sometimes knowing the third party has no alternative agenda of using this role to better their own interests in one's backyard is an advantage in getting to trust.

By simply offering the US risks little. By simply urging the parties to step back and consider negotiated options the US risks little. By such actions the US also can take the position that it did what it could to help short of actions violating the sovereignty of the Syrian nation, and if the Syrian people and government neither one are interested, then fine, good luck. We've got other things to worry about elsewhere.

If the President overreacts its one more "war" and that is not good. If he does nothing he is acting counter to our recent strategic theme of "US global leadership" and looks weak. Agree or disagree with US global leadership (I personally find it to be hubris to assume, and wish senior leadership would back off of that theme all together), if one declares oneself the be the leader, one had better lead.

We live in dynamic times. Not to be too "think-tanky," but I don't think anyone has all the answers, and if fact, most are still trying to sort out what the right questions are.

JMA
03-03-2012, 06:26 AM
We live in dynamic times. Not to be too "think-tanky," but I don't think anyone has all the answers, and if fact, most are still trying to sort out what the right questions are.

Spoken from the comfort of an air-conditioned office somewhere in North America... while the Syria regime moves into Homs to carry-out another massacre.

But hey! Don't let anyone dear say the US or the international community should do something about it. So all the world sees is talk, talk, talk and a little finger wagging. My, my, my how the once mighty have fallen.

Dayuhan
03-03-2012, 08:07 AM
Spoken from the comfort of an air-conditioned office somewhere in North America... while the Syria regime moves into Homs to carry-out another massacre.

Well, speaking from a mountaintop several thousand miles from north America and a a long way from the nearest air conditioner, I see no reason whatsoever for the US to be involved in Syria.


But hey! Don't let anyone dear say the US or the international community should do something about it. So all the world sees is talk, talk, talk and a little finger wagging. My, my, my how the once mighty have fallen.

Fallen? Fallen from where? When has it ever been US policy to blunder into other people's conflicts where we have no shred of an interest? Can you name me a decade when the US hasn't sat back and watched a massacre somewhere in the world? Not that massacres are wonderful, but we are not the world's cop, and the fastest route to global impotence is to burn your capacity and wear yourself down by shoving your equipment into all kinds of messy places where you have no business.

You seem terribly concerned about what you see as an American decline... do you not see that great powers are more likely to decline through overextension and overreach than by minding their own business and staying focused on their own interests?

Bob's World
03-03-2012, 01:51 PM
Spoken from the comfort of an air-conditioned office somewhere in North America... while the Syria regime moves into Homs to carry-out another massacre.

But hey! Don't let anyone dear say the US or the international community should do something about it. So all the world sees is talk, talk, talk and a little finger wagging. My, my, my how the once mighty have fallen.

Get in line with the rest of the Chickenhawks with no personal stake to risk who clammor to send US troops into every little brushfire around the globe. Thankfully the administration appears to be learning to tune that brand of senseless noise out.

Now is not the time for a US who rushes in blindly with guns blazing to every little conflict around the world. I realize diplomacy has taken a back seat to state sanctioned violence as our primary tool of foreign policy. High time we get that relationship back into the proper order.

Oh, and while not the saltiest character in the world, I think I can stand on my 26 years of military service in combat arms, 20 in Special Forces with deployment to three separate combat theaters and politely tell you to go F yourself with your silly little AC and think tank comments simply because not everyone thinks starting illogical wars, or fighting conflicts illogically is the best approach. Grow up.