Did you see the frightened ones?

27 08 2013

I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria—which is fine, given that no one is asking and I’m in no position to do anything anyway.

Still, I do like the sound of my own voice, so I need to say: “I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria.”

George Packer’s ambivalence is, rightly, getting lots of links. Bashar al-Assad is a bloody-minded dictator willing to murder his way across his country in order to keep that country his: If the people don’t want him, they don’t deserve him, and thus will be killed.

He is willing, in other words, to do anything to survive.

Given that, Packer’s question goes right to the point: “I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.”

Is the Obama administration or France or NATO willing to go after Assad? If so, what then? Iraq redux?

And if not, why bother?

It’s possible that someone could come up with a decent argument for limited multilateral intervention—that it would, in fact, materially improve the prospects of a decent life for more Syrians than not—but even Fred Kaplan, who offers the most optimistic realistic appraisal of intervention, riddles that appraisal with hedges, questions, and doubts.

I don’t have any difficulty believing that Assad gassed his own people. Some argue that he must have been set up because who would be so stupid to loose sarin on a neighborhood with UN inspectors on the ground, but is it really such a stretch to think a homicidal megalomaniac might have issues with logic and reason? Conversely, that he’s a homicidal megalomaniac doesn’t mean he can’t calculate the odds of any intervention resulting in his ouster sufficiently low to make a terror-inducing gas attack worth his while.

In either case, we’re back to the obvious: he’ll burn his country before he hands it over to the traitors and cowards who would rather live without him.

That’s a horrible, horrible situation for Syrians, and produces the horrible paradox, as well: We want to intervene because it’s horrible, but because it’s so horrible, we can’t intervene.

Not unless we want to burn the country down ourselves.

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5 responses

28 08 2013
dmfant

I’m increasingly suspicious of the idea, in general but also in this case, that we must intervene direectly in these non-state states of flux. We did level Germany but they had a civil-society to build on and mostly stable neighbors, while we are still dealing with the fallout of our (and our allies especially the UK&France) earlier attempts at invention/state-building in the middle-east. Missile launchings and such as ‘token’ efforts is a nightmare.
One might hope that a people with their own history of a terribly bloody civil war that still sends shockwaves that cripple our politics would know that democracy building is a messy and often violent process but than that would require learning so…

28 08 2013
28 08 2013
mcjwalker

Situations like these it’s hard for anyone to win. Anywhere in the world there are unspeakable injustices happening all the time, it’s just a fact of life. I have a hard time understanding why, morally, Syria gets this intervention when east Asian sweatshops and African death squads are still things. Economically though, it makes a lot more sense. Motives aside the idea of warring for peace isn’t necessarily contradictory; hopefully things will go exactly as the White House wants, al-Assad will be bombed out of power, and Syria will transition to something less tyrannical.

29 08 2013
absurdbeats

@both dmf & mjcw: Honestly, if I thought the US or [some subset of] the international community could depose Assad and install a regime accountable to the people, I’d say “go for it!” And in the Congo and Somalia and everywhere else, to boot.

I’m not so enamored of national borders that I think it a travesty were they crossed to save a people from chaos and bloodshed: the idea of a “Responsibility to Protect” actually makes sense to me.

No, I’m opposed to a military attack on Syria because I don’t think it would work. I don’t think it would protect the Syrians, I don’t think it would lead to the downfall of Assad, and if by some chance it did, I don’t think what would follow would be better.

What’s happening in Syria is terrible, but given that I don’t see how military intervention would make it less terrible, it seems a waste of. . . everything.

6 04 2017
Oh, the dragons are going to fly tonight | AbsurdBeats

[…] say the same thing I said when the previous president was considering launching airstrikes against Syria: “I don’t know what the hell to do about […]

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