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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #41
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    I don't envy any American politician who decides he needs to sell a military intervention to neutralize Syrian WMD to the American public. The old adage about boys crying "wolf" does come to mind...
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  2. #42
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default You don't have to "sell it"

    No one sold intervention in Libya. The American public doesn't care as much as you think.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  3. #43
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Of course there are risks involved in letting things play out and dealing with whatever emerges, but there is no risk-free course of action, and I can see why decision makers would think that course of action presents less risk than any commitment to trying to direct the outcome.
    Any action (or inaction) we take present risks AND by its very nature, constitute an attempt to direct an outcome (or at least prevent other outcomes). The question is more how much are we willing to risk for which desired outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    A better path than what?
    A regional war that we would get sucked into.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Assad is clearly no longer able to keep a lid on things, and I see no point in trying to restore his ability to keep a lid on things...
    I don't think it is that clear that he could not have kept a lid on things. He probably had the ability prior to other interested parties providing support. Remember, this has been going on for some time and Assad has only recently resorted to real military might like air strikes. Had Turkey and the Saudis not gotten involved he might have little problem keeping a lid on things.

    This is no longer a civil war, it is a proxy war. Containment and damage control are our primary interests. Actions (or inaction) we take should, IMO, be based on those two interests.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 08-19-2012 at 04:06 PM.
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  4. #44
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default From the always entertaining C.J. Chivers.

    “Machine gun in right hand. Cell phone in left. On duty on the gun-truck’s machine gun, at 80 miles an hour into Aleppo, checking messages along the way.” [LINK]


    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  5. #45
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    No one sold intervention in Libya. The American public doesn't care as much as you think.
    I'd say Obama made some effort to sell the intervention, ably assisted by media: for a while it seemed like you couldn't look at a TV without seeing a reporter on the ground in Benghazi reporting on the imminent sack of the city and interviewing people who were about to be slaughtered. The lack of a similar media-safe threatened zone is, I suspect, a major reason for the lack of enthusiasm for intervention in Syria. The Anglo/French willingness to take at least a nominal lead role was also critical in the sale.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Any action (or inaction) we take present risks AND by its very nature, constitute an attempt to direct an outcome (or at least prevent other outcomes).
    Is the current strategy an attempt to direct an outcome or an acknowledgement that our capacity to direct outcomes is limited?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    The question is more how much are we willing to risk for which desired outcome.
    I'd also ask whether we have or at any point had an available move that had any meaningful chance of providing our desired outcome. I've yet to see any suggestion that we did, and in the absence of one I'm not inclined to be very critical of the course adopted, which seems to me not unreasonable.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    A regional war that we would get sucked into.
    That would be an adverse outcome, but what available course would have prevented it? Diving into a mess out of fear that one might in the future get sucked into it seems a course of questionable wisdom.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I don't think it is that clear that he could not have kept a lid on things. He probably had the ability prior to other interested parties providing support. Remember, this has been going on for some time and Assad has only recently resorted to real military might like air strikes. Had Turkey and the Saudis not gotten involved he might have little problem keeping a lid on things.
    I'm not sure that fits the chronology very well... seems to me the lid was well and truly off well before any outside parties got involved in any meaningful way, nor is it clear that outside involvement has at any point been a major driver of the conflict... not that the US could at any point have prevented outside parties from getting involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    This is no longer a civil war, it is a proxy war.
    Based on what evidence? Certainly outside parties are involved, on both sides, but I've seen no evidence or suggestion that outside involvement has reached the point where either Assad or those who oppose him could reasonably be said to be anyone's proxy. What's the actual extent of the outside support? Could either side not survive without it? All I've seen suggests that accelerated defections from the armed forces account for more of the rebel's gains than outside assistance. Of course we don't have inside information, but is there any evidence to suggest that outside assistance is a make-or-break factor for either side?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  6. #46
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    “Machine gun in right hand. Cell phone in left. On duty on the gun-truck’s machine gun, at 80 miles an hour into Aleppo, checking messages along the way.”


    Also
    An insurgent army which claims to be up to 15,000 strong is being coordinated from Turkey to take on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which risks plunging the region into open warfare.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-on-Syria.html

    and

    What Russia taught Syria: When you destroy a city, make sure no one -- not even the story -- gets out alive.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._the_messenger


    and

    BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian regime threatened Monday to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed, however, that Damascus would not use its unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement comes as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead and threats by Israel to attack to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.
    http://news.yahoo.com/syria-says-che...103925213.html
    Last edited by AdamG; 08-20-2012 at 03:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamG View Post
    Awesome!
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  8. #48
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Budget brand tactics #8783 : how to draw fire from a sniper in Homs, Syria
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail


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    Based on what evidence? Certainly outside parties are involved, on both sides, but I've seen no evidence or suggestion that outside involvement has reached the point where either Assad or those who oppose him could reasonably be said to be anyone's proxy. What's the actual extent of the outside support? Could either side not survive without it? All I've seen suggests that accelerated defections from the armed forces account for more of the rebel's gains than outside assistance. Of course we don't have inside information, but is there any evidence to suggest that outside assistance is a make-or-break factor for either side?
    Agreed. Outside assistance at this point probably counts for 5% or less of rebel resources, although it is starting to increase.

    The "civil war vs proxy war" dichotomy that people throw around is an odd one, since the vast majority of civil wars involve some sort of external involvement. In this case, Gulf, Turkish, diaspora, and (to a lesser extent) Western aid to the opposition will likely speed the end of the Asad regime, but they are hardly the cause of its impending demise.
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 08-20-2012 at 08:33 PM. Reason: Fixed quote
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  10. #50
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Agreed. Outside assistance at this point probably counts for 5% or less of rebel resources, although it is starting to increase.
    Sending weapons is of no use if there are no fighters willing or able to use the weapons... material aid can assist a rebellion, but it can't create one. I suspect that ultimately Assad's fate will depend on his ability to retain the loyalty of his armed forces, not on any outside involvement.

    It might be claimed that outside introduction of certain weapons could be decisive in an insurgency. That claim has sometimes been made for the US introduction of MANPADS during the Soviet-Afghan war, though that claim has been credibly challenged. I've seen no suggestion that any such game-changing weaponry has been introduced in Syria.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    The "civil war vs proxy war" dichotomy that people throw around is an odd one
    Odd, but useful: there's always propaganda value, for either side, in claiming that your opponent is a tool of the manipulative furriner.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  11. #51
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Maps

    Although I have a reasonable mind map of Syria these maps really help, especially for showing regime supportive areas:http://www.understandingwar.org/pres...ing-insurgency

    Or a BBC edition with less detail:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19285076
    davidbfpo

  12. #52
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Two different views

    First from a "lurker" familiar with the region:
    The West is reading more than a local might into the current conflict in Tripoli. The bottom line is that perhaps too much of what is happening in Lebanon is being seen from the viewpoint of a western based position that sees Assad as bad, and the rebels (any rebels) as good. Labelling them this way may help to make it come true. But it does not mean that it is true in the first place.

    Syria is still heading toward a Lebanese style civil war. This will not be to the benefit of “western” security.
    Secondly Professor Paul Rogers writes an overview, which ends on an optimistic note re the new UN Mission:
    For the moment, however, rhetoric still holds sway. A particularly bad example is the demand from western sources that the experienced Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi - the successor of Kofi Annan as United Nations-Arab League envoy in Syria - should agree that the regime gives up power. Brahimi, whose willingness to assume the task of mediation is one of the very few hopeful recent indicators, is far too able to accede to a course that would stymie his mission before it starts.

    If Brahimi can engineer a provisional settlement, in the process building on private concerns in Washington and other capitals, that would create some hope of a genuine halt to Syria's descent. The best prospect now is a least-worse option, and even that could only be achieved against great odds. Without it, there is a real risk that the war in Syria could last years rather than months.
    He makes a point on Syria's chemical weapons:
    Syria decided on developing a chemical-weapon arsenal to counter Israel's unique nuclear capability, a choice reinforced in the wake of Israel's destruction of so many Syrian aircraft in Lebanon in the mid-1980s. The Syrian chemical force is thus configured with Israel in mind, but that does not diminish its potential for other uses if the Assad regime seems about to disintegrate.
    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-ro...-and-diplomacy
    davidbfpo

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    Default Calling on all Freedom Fighters or Jihadists?

    This Matt VanDyke fellow is an interesting character who obviously sports a large pair. I'm comfortable he is a freedom fighter (as least in his mind), but can't help to wonder if these activities are also supporting the Jihadists. Thoughts?

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012...ia-kickstarter

    New Kickstarter Pitch: ‘Join the Syrian Uprising’

    Their next project: go to Syria, an exceptionally dangerous place for journalists, activists or human beings in general. But they’re not exactly journalists or documentarians. Their Kickstarter pitch: “Two freedom fighters from the Libyan revolution join the Syrian uprising against Assad and capture it all on film.” Wait, what?

    Is this a Kickstarter to crowdfund the revolution or to crowdfund a film about the revolution? VanDyke’s answer skirts the line. “The purpose of this project is to film in support of the rebels,” he tells Danger Room, “we do not anticipate participating in combat this time.”
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...b-spr?ref=card

    Interesting video, and you'll note on his website extensive use of social media.

    http://www.matthewvandyke.com/

    Under facts:

    I gave 8 months of my life to the cause of freedom in Libya, including nearly 6 months in a Libyan prison. I served honorably and with dignity, giving everything I had to the cause. It is both distressing and appalling that after I returned to the United States I found Joel Simon attempting to tarnish my reputation and service with outright lies and distortions in his blog to cover up his own unprofessional conduct in my case in order to save his job as executive director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

  14. #54
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    This Matt VanDyke fellow is an interesting character who obviously sports a large pair. I'm comfortable he is a freedom fighter (as least in his mind), but can't help to wonder if these activities are also supporting the Jihadists. Thoughts?
    He seems exceedingly fond of himself and his self-image, and I have to wonder whether the intent of the project is to promote the Syrian revolution or to promote Matt VanDyke.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    He seems exceedingly fond of himself and his self-image, and I have to wonder whether the intent of the project is to promote the Syrian revolution or to promote Matt VanDyke.
    There are few wall flowers that are able to promote anything effectively. Admittedly some people are dragged kicking and screaming into the spot light, while others are trying to find ways to stay in the middle of it. Still it seems many successful people in the public sector have exceedingly large egos which may in fact be annoying, but I suspect that is also what gives them the drive to do what they do while others sit in on the side lines and criticize and claim it can't be done. Several senior military officers also carefully craft their imagine and you wonder what their priorities are sometime, but at the end of the day, at least to some extent this may be necessary. Still agree that those seeking fame are annoying and it does bring into question their motives, yet if their effective does it really matter?

  16. #56
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    There are few wall flowers that are able to promote anything effectively. Admittedly some people are dragged kicking and screaming into the spot light, while others are trying to find ways to stay in the middle of it. Still it seems many successful people in the public sector have exceedingly large egos which may in fact be annoying, but I suspect that is also what gives them the drive to do what they do while others sit in on the side lines and criticize and claim it can't be done. Several senior military officers also carefully craft their imagine and you wonder what their priorities are sometime, but at the end of the day, at least to some extent this may be necessary. Still agree that those seeking fame are annoying and it does bring into question their motives, yet if their effective does it really matter?
    I guess that depends on what they're effective at... at changing conditions on the ground, or at advancing their own careers.

    I can identify with the plan to some extent; long ago in my deranged youth I attempted something very similar, and I'd readily admit that there were a few dreams of fame in the mix then. Of course I didn't become famous or change the world, possibly because I wasn't much good at self-promotion, though that was admittedly more difficult in the pre-internet world. At my current age I'd rather sit on the sidelines and... question, if not criticize.

    I wouldn't say it couldn't be done, or even that it shouldn't be done, but I do suspect that the purpose - whether to advance a revolution or a career - is likely to have a great deal of influence on the final product. We shall see.

    Still, the level of self-promotion on that site is to me well over the top. If he gets himself killed, well, that's his choice. Hope he doesn't get anyone else killed in the process.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 08-25-2012 at 08:23 AM.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Anyone thinking Jack Idema like I am?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Anyone thinking Jack Idema like I am?
    Not a name I'm familiar with, so I checked on Google to find jack was dead, but for those who seek some knowledge check this 'disputed' Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Idema
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Anyone thinking Jack Idema like I am?
    This guy seems more stable and less colorful to me.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    his site is pretty self aggrandizing but still entertaining. The best part was how he contributed 8 months of his life to the libyan revolution but 6 months were spent as a non starter in jail.

    If he wants to be a war tourist go ahead. Nice thing about doing it yourself is you can come and go when you please, but you have no support. Hope he doesnt feel entitled to sof help if he's about to get his head chopped off.

    i may be biased as one of my favorite books of all time is "my war gone by i miss it so" by anthony lloyd

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