A Confession of Bias



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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187 Responses

  1. Avatar InMD says:

    Great post. I say that even as someone who wouldn’t support using our military to evacuate refugees or create safe zones. In our current paradigm mission creep would ensure that it was step 1 to actual involvement in the hostilities (see Iraq 2).

    We’re propagandized from a young age to see ourselves as liberators in these situations, always fighting for the side of virtue. The reality of course is much different but it’s hard to get the masses to understand that. It isn’t helped that we’ve shifted from citizen conscripts to a pseudo praetorian class for war fighting and that our corporate media is dominated by sycophants, so addicted to access that asking hard questions can kill their careers.

    I too wish that the anti-war position was better represented in regular partisan discourse but I’m not sure how we get there from here. Yesterday a friend from high school who I know to be very progressive posted that he reluctantly backed yesterday’s bombing. I posted an article questioning the efficacy on his post and suggested he consider it for perspective. I was immediately accused by a large number of people of posting ‘fake news’ and being callous about the death of children. The ensuing conversation was as productive as any political discussion on social media, which is to say, not at all.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Man, we’d need a very strong peace contingent at home, because it would have to resist the pressure from our friends & allies around the world to get involved militarily in conflicts.Report

      • Avatar InMD says:

        That’s why it probably won’t ever happen. The way anti-war voices are scattered around the far left and libertarian/isolationist right leaves no constituency for it. The only thing that I think could potentially change that is sustained economic crisis that forces people currently living comfortably to ask why we’d rather spend money in adventures abroad than take care of our own. As much as I hate our foreign policy that’s not something I’m about to wish for.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Always look for the game of the protagonist:

          First: setting up what they intend to happen with their policy
          Second: accusing you of not wanting what they intend to happen to happen when you question whether what they intent is possible (or whether they have the competence to achieve it)

          “We need to do this. You can’t make an omelet without breaking any eggs.”

          “The last four times you came over to make breakfast, you threw all of the eggs on the floor, broke the microwave, and set the sink on fire.”

          “What, don’t you think that hungry children should eat?”Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Someday, somebody who is really, really good at manipulation will figure out the dead children pictures thing.

    God help us all.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      What’s funny is this is the third (that I can remember) “beautiful baby” image to come out of the Syrian conflict: first was the child refugee who drowned and second was the child on the stretcher. Both of those, I believe, were before Trump took office (the first definitely was and I’m pretty sure the second was). Which means we may be 1 for 3 in terms of being manipulated by this tactic, but also might mean Trump is 1 for 1.

      Then there’s all the dead baby pics that haven’t gone viral. Is Sally Struthers still making commercials?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Imagine if the news was running stories showing the faces of the people run over the other day by a truck. Story after story after story.

        Would you feel like the news was going out of its way to manipulate you?

        I sure would.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I’m not arguing with you, @jaybird … just commenting on the observations thus far.

          Part of the difficulty in determining whether “the news” is trying to manipulate me is figuring out if they are the dog or if they are the tail.

          Who do you worry the manipulators are/will be? And who are the targets?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Remember the news the other day? Brian Williams rhapsodizing about the beauty of the missiles we were launching?

            The sheer number of pundits out there who jumped to “We Have To Stand Behind Trump” as soon as those (beautiful) missiles launched?

            That was weird.

            Was “the news” trying to manipulate you? I dunno. Probably not.

            Though it feels like an insult to Brian Williams to assume that he meant what he said.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              It was as transparent display of one of the media’s biases. It’s just not the one that conservatives like to complain about.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s weird how it seems to be shared by so many.

                Dig this in the New Yorker:

                The moral case for President Trump’s strike on Syria is uncontroversial. The strategic case for the strike is also clear. But was it legal?

                The moral case is uncontroversial.

                That’s one hell of a bias there, Greg.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Hmmmm it’s almost like people can’t see their own biases. Well other people that is.

                The dreaded MSM has been extremely deferential to use of military power. Almost like they are uncritical supporters of it. Partially this is out of fear of being called traitors by the right. So that leads to one heck of a bias.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I expected them to at least remember Iraq a little bit. Just a smidge.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I’m not a journalist so I can’t say for sure but I think it’s just not in their interest to remember. Remembering means asking hard questions of the people in power they rely on for scoops and access. It also might mean telling their audiences things they don’t want to hear about their government and society (which we know won’t help the sales of their sponsors).

                I also think it’s an illustration of why we need the Glenn Greenwalds of the world who are willing to give platforms to alternative views (like Edward Snowden’s, like Julian Assange’s). I’m interested to see how public opinion plays out. I was impressed in 2013 that a lot of people remembered even if the government and the media didnt. At least some Trump supporters seem to remember now. Time will tell I suppose.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Was “the news” trying to manipulate you? I dunno. Probably not.

              No, but the Navy certainly was: they’re the ones who released those powerful images of the rockets’ white glare against the beautiful night-time sky fully well knowing that all the major TV outlets would put ’em on a loop.

              How could such a magnificent display of American Power be bad???Report

    • Avatar Autolukos says:

      This is the second time I’ve seen someone frame this as a new development. Do you really think that nobody knew that poignant images from war zones could drive opinion about the war before this week?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I wasn’t really arguing for the “new development” as much as preparing myself for the whole next level thing of propaganda waves that will eventually come.

        Like the industrialization of mutilated children begging, this is going to turn into something, like, *REALLY* monstrous.

        If it hasn’t already, of course.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      That was Kuwait, silly. All lies of course.Report

  3. Avatar davidly says:

    The springboard here is based on the false premise that any of the actual decision-makers explicitly mentioned or alluded to in this article share Patrick’s “preferred method” – let alone have or represent the same interests that the author does. It’s not that the atrocities are not very real; it’s that they exist for a reality that is nowhere to be found on this page. Of course by the time one reaches the “moral purity” smear, it’s easy to see where it’s all gone wrong — at least to the extent that “we” are responsible agents in this dilemma.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      I am not sure I understand the critique.

      I am aware that few people share my preferred solution. Indeed, particularly early in a comflict, it’s probably the case that many of the folks *in* a war zone would not prefer it.

      People want to live the lives they want to live where they want to live them, and they want other people to respect that to the point that they will help defend it. From a justice standpoint, offering a people a place to flee quite likely feels less just than offering to fight the good fight to defend their lives and homes and property.

      I accept the possibility that war can be inevitable. I don’t accept the argument that it is then moral to engage in it. It isn’t, and sometimes it is better for humans to admit that what they are doing is deeply evil and try and get it done with.

      Our problem, as a society, is that we do not have the stomach to admit this and thus we require sanitized war. And since we believe it is sanitized, we are willing to use our sanitized war to assuage us into thinking we are doing something moral and worthwhile.

      This is both a form of cowardice and a form of stupidity, in that we empirically create situations that go on for interminable time and do not resolve.

      If you want war to *end*, you have to take away the willingness to do violence of all the participants.

      We don’t seem willing to do that. We aren’t ruthless enough, I suppose.

      Ruthless war *ends*, though. The sort of conflicts we are willing to participate in? They don’t.

      So… we are still in Afghanistan. We are still in Iraq. We haven’t resolved Libya, or Lebanon, or the West Bank. Hundreds of thousands of people have died indirectly, of starvation or from being used as human shields or by their oppressors who we haven’t stopped, or directly by our own actions. Millions more have been displaced to places where they live subsistence lives and are at the political mercy of folks who would rather drop a bomb somewhere than invite them into their own country.

      Explain to me how you think this strategy is defensible on consequentialist terms.Report

      • Avatar davidly says:

        It is not defensible. Not in the least. Neither is the fantasy that “we” refuse to face the reality that it has to be more involved. More “ruthless”. On the contrary.

        Apparently I have not made myself clear. Again, you are ignoring the very real fact that the motives for warfare, even the ones of the exceptional US, are selfish, not humanitarian. Zero humanitarianism is motivator. ZERO. Sure there are people with votes (if such actions were still voted on) who are moved by the pictures. That’s the point. Ignore that and the rest you have to say about it is without one.

        The circumstances we are referring to — beginning with the present: the fractious fighting in the greater Syrian region, more stratified still when we consider the proxy nature of all the actors getting in on it, going all the way back to, say, Roosevelt (the bully one) slaughtering Filipinos — have led these places to the state of affairs that the US continues to contend with: Convenient alliances cum most-dangerous enemies, often in less than a generation, and the financial bottom line and resources that are at the heart of each action, whether longer term geo-political, or shorter term raw materials & logistics, with the grand bonus of the perpetual war it engenders.

        If you believe for one small moment that the wagers of war, either aggressive or ostensibly defensive/preemptive, think they have bungled anything or are not achieving their goals, or even remotely share the humanitarian instinct you do, then I got a pipeline to sell you, which “we” just might get built with your plan.Report

        • Avatar Patrick says:

          Ah, if I am reading you correctly you are saying that every conflict since at least Eisenhower, possibly earlier, was engineered for fun and profit?

          That is, this repetition is by design, coordinated, and ongoing.

          I don’t generally attribute this to the military-industrial complex. I recognize that these interests exist, of course, as well as the petroleum industry, and that there are international corporate interests who lobby for interventions. Cuba was at least partially about a bunch of rich folks being angry that a dictator grabbed their capitalized equipment and real property.

          But I don’t believe the military-industrial-complex-as-illuminati explanation, because I watch the polls, and I watch how the politicians respond to the polls.

          Folks who generally want to attribute all thr culpability here to our leaders… sometimes I think it is because they want to think better of our fellow citizens (and maybe we also like to think that we keep failing at making our case because They are working against us).

          I don’t think it works that way.Report

          • Avatar davidly says:

            Your MIC-Illuminati conflation dodge does not create the evidence that the interests you are aware of do not drive the politics. It’s blindingly consistent. You mentioned Cuba. You begin with rich people being angry at a dictator, skipping past the Batista coup that preceded him and the US habit of recognizing dictators who’ll do their will (or, as I say, the will of the likes of their most wealthy & powerful constituencies), or overthrowing democratically elected leaders and installing their own puppet regime to be overthrown down the line. The evidence is clear.

            Leaving aside for the moment the effects still felt today from US removal of Chile’s Allende and Iran’s Mosaddegh and focusing instead on more recent adventures: What did the polls you follow tell you about what the electorate even knows about the invasions of Iraq, Libya, and Yemen? War on terror? Seriously?Report

            • Avatar Patrick says:

              Generally speaking, post-Iraq, the poll aggregates seem to point in a pretty clear direction: the American public wants to do something, they don’t want boots on the ground.

              This does point to the likely fact that they are underinformed, to say the least.

              But they do like it when we do something. Partisan skew aside, pretty reliably Presidential approval ratings go up after we bomb something. They have a tendency to stay up until the collective wisdom turns into “we are stuck in a quagmire”, and then they usually don’t change their opinions until leadership changes, at which point they reset the clock.

              The fact that Trump just did what Obama wanted to do years ago and what Clinton campaigned on doing will probably result in an uptick in his approval ratings, until the quagmire narrative becomes pervasive.

              I still don’t entirely understand what alternative narrative you are proposing here, so if I am misrepresenting you it isn’t intentional.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                Yeah, but what do they say after they’ve read Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket? Or watched the doe-eyed modern, semi-schucks ignorant version revealed here:

              • Avatar Patrick says:

                Cut to the chase, David.

                What case are you making here?

                That war is a racket, and that folks don’t know this? That’s not terribly interesting
                Sure, some folks don’t know this. Other folks do know it. A third set of folks think they know it but they don’t understand what sort of racket it actually is.

                All politicians are in on the racket? Some? Most? Why should we suspect high amounts of collusion when our historical pattern can be just as easily explained by many if not most politicians giving the people what the people say they want?Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                As it relates to the subject matter at hand, they don’t give the people what they want, which is where manufacturing consent comes in to play. But, it seems to me that this consent is getting less plausible from the point of view of the people, which is saying a lot. I mean, who’s traditionally as a profession garnered more notoriety for being duplicitous dissemblers than politicians? It’s davidly, btw.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                There’s no way Syria can become a quagmire because it’s all either arid mountains or desert. There are no swampy areas there, so it’s nothing like Vietnam, which outside the central highlands was pretty much one big quagmire before the first American even set foot in the place.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Great post Patrick.

    I am not a complete pacifist or isolationist. Those goals are unrealistic. I do think the U.S. could play a role for good in international affairs.

    Getting involved in Syria is amess. We should just let refugees in. But how do we help them get here? That would require the military.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Yes, it would. And for those actors that want to draw us into a conflict, there’s an obvious strategy InMD indirectly alluded to: wait until we establish a refugee camp and then attack refugees headed to it. Are we going to sit there and do nothing or send out sorties?

      As long as we keep the mission “getting people out” and not “attempting to end the conflict using tactics that won’t end the conflict”, I can tolerate the consequences.

      Or, you know, we could actually try to end the conflict.

      But we won’t do that. We have no stomach for it.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      Part of reigning in our foreign policy excesses requires accepting that we can’t help them. If they make it here on their own they can be treated as asylum seekers.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        I think this is the important conclusion. Nothing we can do “there” can realistically improve the long-term prospects of “there”, and most likely anything we do will make things worse.

        Bombing someone that used chemical weapons is a different thing. We should retaliate againt the user, once, swiftly, and then go back to minding our own business.Report

        • Avatar El Muneco says:

          The real problem is that there is fished up, and it pretty much has been for all eleven thousand years of history.
          Subgroups of people fractured along so many lines – ethnic, religious, tribal, national, economic…
          Ruled over by strongmen who don’t give a flying about any of that, in turn opposed by fanatics who definitely do care but are not beneficient.
          Oh, and climate change is redrawing the map under it all.
          We can’t solve it. They can’t solve it.
          A few bombs here and there is definitely not going to solve it.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      Importing all the refugees may help them but it won’t do anything for us.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Thank you for your contribution.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          The truth is that letting the fugees come here may make liberals feel good but won’t solve the real problem, Assad. I know they like the easy way out but this isn’t it.Report

          • Avatar Jesse says:

            I mean, if Assad has nobody to rule other than his sychophants and members of various terrorist groups who hate him, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              Sure but thats not even realistic.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                I have to, oddly, agree with notme here.

                In some hypothetical universe we can airlift out the Syria people and leave Assad ruling over an empty country, but that is clearly an absurd idea in real reality. Syria has 23 million people in it. Not only would that amount take forever to move, but we legitimately have nowhere to put that many people…I don’t mean ‘We cannot integrate that many people at once.’, I mean ‘A lot of them would be homeless’.

                Even if we just do it to the *dissents*, which would presumably be less…that seems, oddly, to reward Assad, and make *future* threats against rebels and dissents more likely in dictatorships: ‘Oh, I can just threaten everyone to disagrees with me, and the US will calmly remove them all, so everyone will then agree with me.’

                And this is pretending everyone who disagrees would just give up their life and come here, which is a bit silly, because if they were *that* accepting of their situation in life, they probably *wouldn’t be dissents* in the first place.

                Refugees are not dissents. Refugees are *people living where fighting is going on*, aka, probably near dissents. If all the refugees in that area magically teleport out, leaving only dissents, the dissents will probably, by necessity, move elsewhere, because Assad would feel *even more* free to level those places.

                This is not to say that our *rejection* of refugees is justified, but accepting refugees, or even going in at gunpoint and evacuating people, cannot solve the actual problem.Report

          • Avatar El Muneco says:

            Despitw our differences, I don’t disagree. There are at least four issues: what should we do to protect refugees who want to remain, what path should we provide for refugees who want to immigrate, how should we respond to the norm violation of chemical weapons use, and should we have a role in the baseline shitstorm that is the civil war there?
            Reasonable people can and will disagree about the answers to each of those. But no one is served by conflating them, or worse providing the right answer to the wrong question.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Maybe this is a silly question, but why are chemical weapons a norm violation and other weapons, some much more destructive, not?

              Or, rather, why and how did we develop a norm that says chemical weapons are worse than others?Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                This is the most relevant question raised thusfar on this page. Especially in the context of the fact that the United States had already killed more Syrian woman and children in the month of April alone than this highly touted chemical attack did. The former assault received press coverage here and there, not exactly covered up, but the latter garnered the wall-to-wall, baby picture posturing style of press we get whenever somebody wants to highlight the “need to do something”.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Saw someone write this: “What is Bashar al-Assad thinking by using chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war? I don’t know, but I would guess what he’s thinking now is that he’s discovered how far he can go without provoking a response. He can kill as many civilians as he likes, any way he wants, as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons to do so.”

                So he found the line perhaps. No idea what this means vis a vis a piece here I largely agree with.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                The wide spread use of gas warfare during WW1 and the resulting casualties. Both sides had large stockpiles during WW2 but never used them. Some have speculated that Hitler didn’t use them as he was wounded in a British gas attack during WW1. I guess you could say that folks decided that war was bad enough as is without making it worse by using chemical weapons.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But how do chem weapons make it worse? They aren’t necessarily deadlier than other weapons. Is it just because of the visuals?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                The only way to protect yourself is to live, work and fight in a rubber NBC suit. It’s very difficult to do anything in those suits and they are hot and limit your movement.


              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How do you protect yourself from a missile?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                We have air defense systems to defend against missiles. Chemical weapons are also worse because of the type of injuries they can cause and how difficult they are to treat. Mustard gas was one of the worst.


              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So, the argument is it’s okay to bomb the shit out of people and kill them that way but not okay to kill them with chemicals?

                If a country doesn’t have air defense, does that change the calculus?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I think that you are overthinking this. It’s true that the norms and laws of war don’t always make sense but they were established to limit suffering.

                Maybe it’s something you have to experience. As part of my officer’s basic we went into the gas chamber only using CS (tear) gas. It made your exposed skin itch and burn. It also caused tears to stream from your eyes, heavy coughing, lots of nasal discharge that was full of mucus, burning in the eyes, nose and throat, disorientation, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Then it stays in you clothes and you have to wash them. It can kill you at high enough levels. It’s not funReport

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Established by who?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                The signatories of the Geneva Conventions.


                This is why you aren’t suppose to kill medics, use exploding bullets, shoot prisoners, machine gun lifeboats, kill pilots that bail out of their aircraft, etc.

                You can shoot paratroopers that are floating down but not pilots that have ejected from their aircraft. A bonus point to anyone that can tell me why.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Guesswork: pilots are implicitly surrendering when they leave the aircraft, but paratroopers are attacking.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                You are close. Pilots ejecting from an aircraft aren’t considered to have surrendered, yet. They are considered “hors de combat” (outside the fight) which is incapable of fighting. If they get to the ground and shoot at you then they are back in the fight and can legally be killed. Paratroops are attacking as you said, and are always in the fight.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Paratroopers are enlisted.

                Pilots are officers.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Yes all pilots are officers, but some paratroopers are officers as well.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Did Syria sign? Did Assad?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Syria has signed, but it doesn’t actually matter.

                First, technically, you’re slightly wrong, notme. The treaty covering chemical weapons is, confusingly, the Geneva *Protocol*, (Full name: Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare). That’s not the Geneva *Convention*, which as you correctly point out has to do with treatment of people not in combat. (As you said, ‘hors de combat’.)

                The Protocol is an addition to the Hague Conventions, and not part of the later Geneva Conventions. (Which, confusingly, *also* have a bunch of protocols.)

                However, Syria has signed the Geneva Protocol *also*, so, well…

                Now, they appear not to have signed the later additional treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention (Seriously? The Hauge _Convention_ has a Geneva _Protocol_ that itself has a later _Convention_? Can we please have some consistent naming here?) that made it illegal to manufacture, possess, or store chemical, but the CWC is generally considered a formality anyway…things that are illegal for a military to *use* in combat are generally considered to be illegal for a military to *possess* anyway.(*cough*ICBMs*cough*) You can’t just have weaponized stuff laying around you cannot legally use except in *very specific* circumstances having to do with defense research.

                Although, weirdly, strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter if Syria hadn’t signed the Geneva Protocol…they’re in violation of international law even if they’ve literally never signed anything ever.

                There are parts of international law that are considered to be in effect *even if* countries have not signed them. They are called jus cogens or a ‘peremptory norm’, and include things like genocide, slavery, torture(*cough*), child soldiers, and any other thing generally considered a crime against humanity. They are the ‘We do not give a shit if you have not signed the treaties, you cannot do that.’ rules.

                Chemical attacks are *not* considered one of those things. It appears to be legal to use chemical weapons in *military combat* if you have not signed the Geneva Protocol. (Although, as I said, Syria has.)

                However, what *is* considered a crime against humanity is killing your own civilian population, or a subset of it, with your military, deliberately. Regardless of how it is done. The bar for ‘international law we enforce without a treaty’ is very high, but, congratulations, if you kill your own civilian population, you get to sit at the Nazi table! Free neckties will be supplied when we catch you.(1)

                Of course, it’s possible Assad will claim there was some military target and the civilians were just collateral damage, and it is *now* we get to the Geneva *Convention*. Because, Syria has signed those too, and they say that some level of care must be taken during attacking military targets not to kill civilians. (Yes, that includes your own!) How *much* care is needed is debatable, but you can’t take *no* care.

                Likewise, you cannot kill civilians as *reprisals* for military attacks…not even if they are *your* civilians.

                So, in reality, the chemical weapon thing is a very silly threshold. Syria (and Russia) have clearly been violating international law this entire time with *conventional* bombs.

                Now, I understand why chemical weapons are a threshold, it’s because we have managed to keep people from crossing it, so we can defend it. Mostly because chemical weapons are…new-ish, in history. Whereas governments murder their own people all the time, so, uh, drawing a line is hard.

                But it’s still a very silly threshold.

                1) Yes, yes, technically, we got the Nazis for *genocide*, which Assad doesn’t really seem to be trying for. But the actual text of the UN charter defining crimes against humanity is ‘Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds’. Politicide, or whatever the word would be, is just as illegal as genocide.

                It is worth pointing out that Syria has, obviously, signed the UN charter.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Yes i was lazy and put it all under the rubric of the “geneva conventions.”Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                Cogent & helpful additions, DavidTC. Of interest might be also that the US has violated consistently throughout modern history and/or recently every crime mentioned in your comment.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Cogent & helpful additions, DavidTC. Of interest might be also that the US has violated consistently throughout modern history and/or recently every crime mentioned in your comment.

                For the record, no, it hasn’t.

                The US has never used child soldiers, for the most obvious example. (At least, not purposefully and knowingly…16 and 17 year old boys faking their age and signing up for a war and the military sometimes looking the other way is not what the prohibition on child soldiers is talking about. It’s talking about kidnapping and drafting preteens.)

                The US has also never *used* chemical weapons. It manufactured them, and stored them, and even supplied them to some forces, but never actually used them in combat at any point.(1)

                The US has *also* never used or even deployed biological weapons, myths about smallpox blankets aside. Although this is hardly a high horse to get on, as *no one* has ever used biological weapons except the Japan in WWII. This is because biological weapons are *fucking insane* to use…so fit right in with Japan’s behavior in China in WWII. (They tried to spread disease in China using *insects*…which did work to some extent, but, seriously?)

                We also, as far as I am aware, have never engage in civilian reprises. It is possible I am wrong there, but I can’t think of an example.

                And your statement, of course, is ignoring the fact the US did a lot of their illegal stuff well before it was regarded as illegal. The half-hearted attempts at Native genocide and the forced relocations, for example. Slavery, for another example. Although we were shamefully late for Europe, not having slavery became an international norm *way* later than we stopped.

                1) Well, unless you count nuclear weapons as chemical weapons, which they are not generally considered to be but *should* be. For the most obvious thing, spreading radioactive material over the enemy soldiers (Or their civilians!) to the levels that obviously cause cancer would blatantly be illegal under the chemical weapon ban, and nuclear weapons…do that very thing. There is no ‘But I need those chemicals to make the explosion really big’ exception to chemical weapons.

                This is, of course, ignoring the fact that nuclear weapons are already illegal under the laws of war because they cannot be aimed enough to avoid civilians. You must, in *theory*, attempt to avoid civilian casualties, and nuclear weapons *cannot* do that, which means they simply cannot be part of your arsenal to start with. As I said, military forces cannot legally *own* weapons they cannot legally *use*.

                Maybe a few small tactical nukes for bunkers and whatnot would be okay to own, but the larger strategic ones, no, as they cannot be used without civilian casualties, as evidence by the ‘strategic’ use literally being ‘We are threatening to kill all your civilians if you kill ours.’….which is also *separately* illegal under international law. (Reprisals are illegal, threatening reprisals is illegal, and threatening civilians is illegal.)

                Nuclear weapons are, basically, super-duper illegal under any consistent framework of international law and the laws of war, which makes it pretty ironical that the US helped *develop* a lot of these frameworks over international law at *exactly the same time* it was developing nuclear weapons.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                You are obviously better versed on the law than I am, so my response may not be legally sound, but I’ll try a couple out on you:

                I hadn’t considered child soldiers and don’t have a case. But I will say that I would bet the farm that American agents of varied hierarchy have done more than look the other way in their proxy war-faring.

                Chemical weapons. Indeed, the Yanks have an easy out, in that they just produce and sell a bunch of deadly material (as an aside: I find the status of the destruction of the stockpiles of American chemical weapons nauseatingly fascinating). But my first thought, related to your footnote, is depleted uranium. Now, I’m just saying… in a neutral court with fair presentation of fact, that the US is on shaky ground. And where does napalm fit in to all of this?

                I guess the execution of the Rosenburgs doesn’t qualify because it beats the deadline. But how about the Disposition Matrix? I mean, seriously. Is this not reprisal because it is pre-emptive? (I refer here to Anwar al-Awlaki). Or because it muddies the waters between war and judicial process, using whichever verbiage is most convenient depending?

                Also, as to the targeting or attempting not to target civilians goes, I do believe that the previous administration broadened the targets of the list to include “signature strikes”, which likewise seems to me to amount to not trying not to targeting civilians if not targeting civilians.

                Well, one thing for sure, neither the US, nor the terrorists it alleges and liquidates will ever see a courtroom. So this is moot. But I thank you in advance for your reply.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                ‘We are threatening to kill all your civilians if you kill ours.’….which is also *separately* illegal under international law. (Reprisals are illegal, threatening reprisals is illegal, and threatening civilians is illegal.)

                The Ukraine traded it’s nukes for a piece of legal paper saying Russia would respect it’s sovereignty and borders.

                Expecting the law to deal with situations that it can’t deal with is problematic. The law is a means, not an ends.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Expecting the law to deal with situations that it can’t deal with is problematic. The law is a means, not an ends.

                I didn’t say what we should or should not do about nuclear weapons.

                I just said there is literally no way to justify them under the concept of international law, because international law contains no ‘I can threaten to do prohibited things because the other side is threatening to do prohibited things’ exception whatsoever. In fact it *seriously criticizes* that justification and *explicitly* bans using it!

                Which sounds odd, but that is because almost every modern war has been justified by both sides slowly escalating illegal actions and threats of illegal actions, all justified with ‘I am doing this thing because the other side did that thing’.

                And the entire point of international law is to entirely stop war. Yes, yes, it tries to protect people in wars if they happen, but the actual intended goal is ‘no wars at all’. Thus *threatening* war (Which is how all wars start) is almost as forbidden as actually doing war.

                So international law, flatly, says ‘Nope. You cannot justify this stuff, period, under any circumstances. You can use hostiles *if and only if* hostilities have already broken out, and you can threaten full hostilities in response to full hostilities (That’s basically how defense treaties work, after all.), but you cannot justify even *threatening* to break the rules ever, under any circumstances.’.

                Which is, frankly, one of the most important international laws the US government breaks, and it gets almost no press. That ‘red line’ that Obama made? Not legal. Individual countries cannot threaten other countries on the grounds that country is violating international law. Only the UN can do that.

                To put it another way, international law exists basically the same as normal law…it is something implemented by the powerful in an attempt to stop random brawls by The Poors as a means of settling disputes, but the powerful always consider themselves above the law and can work around or ignore it, even if they *literally invented* it, like we did.

                So it’s working exactly as intended…we can force other countries to stay in line, even while we do whatever we want.

                The actual problem here, with Syria, to get back to the topic, is that one of the powerful, Russia, has become a bad actor.

                Which is a weird situation to evolve, because they *started* as the Soviet Union and thus weren’t really that great an actor to start with…but I guess the system was designed to work with the sort of misbehavior rich and powerful country would do. But then Russia lost all their money at the racetrack and turned to a life of crime, which we *can’t* deal with, and yet they are grandfathered into a seat on the city council.

                We’d probably be much better off if the security council veto would go away, and all the powerful countries just resorted to *buying* the votes of other countries, like God intended representative politics to work. The reason we didn’t set it up that way in the first place is that communism would have had much more representation, with the Soviets forcing or just threatening a bunch of countries into voting with them…but that ship has mostly sailed.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                And the entire point of international law is to entirely stop war.

                Then they need to figure out what to do with bad actors other than claim it’s not supposed to happen.

                Society has police, and then we have the issue of policing the police. At a national level… the equiv of a cop breaking down a door is probably a war, and that’s a problem.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                I don’t know exactly why – I suspect it’s still hanging around from WW1. Even the Nazis werw reluctant to use gas on the battlefield.
                I don’t particularly agree with it, conventional weapons are plenty effective enough for my taste.
                But it is. The fact that Assad had gone chemical in killing a hundred people was explicitly noted on all sides as being diffeerent in kind than the conventional bombing campaigns that kill thousands. And singularly worthy of response.
                So it wasn’t about the victims per se, since there have been plenty of those – including victims of planes from that same airfield the very next day – it was specifically about using a verboten weapon to do it.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            Getting rid of Assad sounds absolutely great, and if he was likely to be replaced by somebody who wasn’t a complete horror show, I’d be all for it. But it looks to me like we’re being asked to pick a side in a fight between monsters because it would be unconscionable to allow a monster to win. Unless we’re prepared to go in ourselves and install a new government that doesn’t consist of the various parties fighting for control, I’m not really clear on what the alternative people are asking for is.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              We’re not going to get anyone nicer than Bashar al-Assad, a British educated eye doctor who married an investment banker, and who wasn’t groomed for power by his father. His older brother was supposed to take over but he was killed in a car wreck because he didn’t wear his seat belt. Bashar’s younger brother is an aggressive monster in charge of the secret police.

              Anyone who still retains any significant power after six years of brutal civil war would probably be a nightmare. As we’ve learned from an endless stream of disappointments in Africa, those who rise to leadership positions under conditions of chaos and ethnic warfare are skilled at creating chaos and ethnic warfare, along with graft, exploitation, murder, smuggling, and all the other skills that enable one to thrive in that environment.

              Bashar al-Assad was hailed as a progressive reformer until Syria’s underlying realities bit him in the a**. He was trying to be their Gorbachev or Yeltsin and rudely discovered that he was unharnessing the forces of radical Sunni revolutionaries, which in Syria also meant genocidal maniac clerics, so he clamped down again. Fear of the Sunni monster is why the Syrian government reacted with brutal force to the early stages of the Arab Spring protests, and then the whole place just exploded.

              What keeps Assad in power is the well-justified existential fear of a complete Sunni takeover, and the brutal purges, repression, and religious and ethnic cleansing that would follow. That hasn’t changed since before the French took over from the Ottomans, and it will remain a fixed fact of Syria unless the current war defangs the radical Sunnis or reduces their numbers to the point that they can’t win a majority in a newly formed democratic government.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Assad is also the client of Russia so he has powerful back up which we can’t do much about. If the Russian’s want him out the have leverage. If they want him they aren’t putting someone nicer in place.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                That’s a pretty good summary.

                Creating a stable government requires that the people who would probably win a civil war decide that they’d rather step aside than start and win that civil war. The types of people who amass enough weapons and manpower to win a civil war aren’t typically the “stepping aside” type. So even if we step in, we either have to hand the keys over to that type of person or try to build a (not bloodthirsty totalitarian) government strong enough to stand up against that type of person.

                I don’t think we’ve pulled that one off anywhere yet. Maybe we’ll get better with practice, but I’m not sure it’s ethical or productive to keep practicing on other countries the way we have been.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                The types of people who amass enough weapons and manpower to win a civil war aren’t typically the “stepping aside” type.

                As I’ve pointed out before…no government created *via* violence has ever *rejected* violence in a short timespan. In the entire history of the world.(The US tends to stupidly think otherwise because our mythos claims that was how we were formed, but we were actually formed via secession, where our *already existing and democratically inclined* state governments left another government.)

                Many of them, obviously, eventually reject it after a political generation or two, but specific people who have *gained* power using violence against their political enemies will *continue* to use violence against their political enemies, and it’s rather a dice roll if they will even peacefully transition out of the government, and are *extremely* unlikely to do if they are being replaced by ‘political enemies’.

                To get from ‘violent rebellion’ to ‘non-violence using government’, you have to *wait*. The first guys in power are going to keep using violence. The *second* guys in power are probably going to do that also, but maybe you can start discouraging that. The *third* guys, hey, maybe some sort of social norms start showing up that the government using violence is unacceptable.

                Which means, functionally, every time we support the rebels in a civil war, we’re pressing the reset button on the government because we’re annoyed at how long the computer is taking to boot up. That’s…not going to make it boot up faster, guys.

                The only way to have a democratically replaceable government is for the citizens to have lived long enough with the government not using violence that *when* the citizens try to replace the government, the existing government doesn’t think it’s possible to use violence in response without losing *everyone’s* support.

                Thus, the best solution for the US is to pressure dictators to stop their actions, and to try to get them to *willingly* step down and hand over power. Even if they hand it over to successors, now a precedent has been set, and that successor is not used to using violence, and then some other guy gets it handed to..and again and again until some sort of standards exist, and the people in power are elected

                .As I said above, gas attacks are a stupid line in the sand. We want a line in the sand, it should be ‘no violence in your political process from the government, period.’. And if violence from the people is *so extreme* it seems to require violence from the government, tough shit. Be more representative of your own people.

                And the penalty cannot really be ‘violence from us’, because, uh, that is a obviously hypocritical and stupid.

                This is, of course, pretending that we actually cared about that. In reality, we can’t even get the US to agree to *pressure* dictators consistently, and we very obviously care *much more* if foreign governments are on board with our policy positions than how acceptable violence is to them.

                So even if we step in, we either have to hand the keys over to that type of person or try to build a (not bloodthirsty totalitarian) government strong enough to stand up against that type of person.

                I am fairly certain we have not figured out how to build a *strong* government without it being totalitarian. It’s simply not something that can be done, because a lot of that depends on *political norms* that not only do not exist, but *the opposite* norms exist, specifically, the norm of altering using violence to change the government exists, because *that is literally how the last government changed*.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My favorite tweet on this so far comes from Mother Jones’s Clara Jeffery:

    That the missiles are callled tomahawks must enrage a lot of Native Americans— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) April 8, 2017


    • Avatar notme says:

      Meh, military has long named weapons systems in this same way. The clymore mine and the shillelagh and javelin missiles come to mind.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Be glad we went with the Powhatan word tomahawk instead of the Micmac cognate tumeegun, which would better describe a .45 ACP direct blowback fully automatic weapon instead of an air breathing tactical missile.

        Of course, as a European descendant I get enraged whenever a military names a weapon in a word descended from German, Norwegian, French, Italian, Flemish, English, or Spanish.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    The question is not whether there will be war. There is war. Pictures of dead children don’t cause war; war causes pictures of dead children. War exists right now in Syria, and it is hell. The question is whether there will be war with 1,000,000 fighting or 1,025,000. Anything other question is solipsistic.Report

  7. Avatar George Turner says:

    CNN video interview with Syrian goes horribly against the narrative they were pushing

    Maybe Syrians don’t want to be refugees living in a converted shelter in Germany, sleeping next to some Afghanis who want to kill them, or in Milwaukee, forever separated from their childhood friends and neighbors.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Really? People don’t want to be refugees, who would have ever thought that. When people become refugees its due to that being the best choice out of a ton of crap choices.

      You do know the airfield we struck is already operating again.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Oh, of course it’s operating again. Even if we targeted the runways it would be operating again because a runway is just a very low trafficked piece of dirt and asphalt that high-school drop outs can repair in an afternoon.

        The only reason anyone ever targets a runway, as opposed to parked aircraft, is to establish immediate local air superiority by keeping fighter planes temporarily grounded for the duration of an air attack (see the 1967 War). To keep an airbase from becoming active again you have to keep shooting at the repair guys driving the bulldozers, and we aren’t nearly set to do that in Syria.

        So we didn’t waste million dollar missiles creating an afternoon’s work for some guys who don’t have high school diplomas.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Any material we destroyed the Russians can replace. So the raid served nor accomplished any actual military goal. Huzzah!Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            But as long as we can make Tomahawk cruise missiles faster than Russian can build obsolete Mig-23’s and Su-27’s, we’re going to win!

            It’s not attrition warfare. It’s sending a message that after six years of gas attacks on civilians, we have a new President who won’t tolerate gas attacks on civilians, and who will launch missiles at the people who launched such gas attacks. That should create a strong disincentive for them to abandon the use of nerve gas.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Good thing there are no other ways to kill people then. I fear someone, in the future, might invent a way to project pieces of sharp metal with explosives that could cause some harm to flesh though.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Those methods are perfectly acceptable, and often quite manly.

              The world has decided that bug spray for humans is not.

              But drugs like carfentanil are okay because super-potent morphine analogs, even though more lethal than VX or sarin, just cleanse the gene pool. Unless of course some idiot [very bad thing omitted], in which case we’re all screwed.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                So it’s cool if he kills his peeps in the Politically Correct manner.

                That is the essential point of this dog and pony show. He’s a bastard but we aren’t going to get rid of him since he has a powerful sponsor and the situation is far to messy to do that in any way that wouldn’t leave just as bad a bastard in power. Oh and he is fighting ISIS which we like.

                Cruise missile virtue signaling that has no military purpose and doesn’t stop the killing but makes us feel better for a few news cycles isn’t all that useful. It sure as heck doesn’t scare the Chinese or North Koreans or Russians.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Cruise missile virtue signaling

                I like that.

                Well, I kinda hate it, but it’s a nice turn of phrase.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              The last president didn’t tolerate gas attacks on civilians. But he did get fooled by the counterparties to an agreement that they would get rid of the weapons. (and arguably, he didn’t try to hard to make sure he wasn’t getting fooled)Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Airfields are difficult to put out of action unless attacked by a weapon designed to crater them such as the Matra Durandal which is dropped by an aircraft.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Well yeah. The attack was very clearly not aimed at degrading Assad’s ability to use air power. That showed him.

          In any case Excalibur is still cooler but tube artillery isn’t going crater the strip either.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            So we shouldn’t bother to do anything because we can’t come up with the perfect solution? In that case why bother getting out of bed in the morning?Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Did you ever notice how you frame every problem in stark black and white options; do nothing or whatever you want to happen.

              What should we do in Syria? It’s a giant clusterfish we have no power clean up or even have much of a good effect on. Sometimes staying out of a mess is the best option. Well its the least shitty of a box of shitty options. Many years ago i might have gone for symbolic attacks to punish the use of the wrong kind of weapons. If all we are doing it punishing chem weapons but not doing anything else, then we’re not achieving anything worthwhile. There are all sorts of messes we don’t intervene it, North Korea is a prime one. That sucks but it’s the best of shitty choices.

              PS Of course i think we should take in some Syrian refugees. FWIW so should Arab countries that are on teh same side of sunni/shia civil war.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                No that’s your argument. I just reduced it to its simplest terms to show how silly it is.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Reduce what? I’ve said i don’t’ think we have any good options and can’t achieve any sort of decent goal there. So if you can’t make anything better, don’t do something just because you want to do something. But i’m all for getting up in the morning. There is plenty of other good stuff we can do in the world.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I’ve said i don’t’ think we have any good options and can’t achieve any sort of decent goal there. So if you can’t make anything better, don’t do something just because you want to do something.

                That’s exactly what i was pointing to. We can’t achieve a decent goal so don’t do anything.

                Of course i disagree that hitting the airfield wasn’t a decent goal as it sends a message. As my dad said, some folks can only reasoned with by hitting them with a 2×4.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            In this case he is right.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              It’s better to go after the fuel storage and distribution, machine shops, radar and control tower.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                On a tangent, that’s good advice in general. If the IJN had struck primarily at the Pearl Harbor support facilities rather than Battleship Row, Midway wouldn’t have turned out the way it did, and they would have been able to project force deep into the Pacific for, what, another year at least?
                As it is, they kiked off our naval modernization project a little early, and left an intact base for the four ships that really mattered in 1942.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Yes, the INJ had planed for but cancelled a third wave that would have concentrated on those targets.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      What do they know anyway? We westerners know much better what the need and should enjoy.Report

  8. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    It’s very hard to argue to the public that the world (and the US) is better off if the guys on the airbase nerve gassing folk should just be allowed to do their thing without interference.

    Worse, the Obama-style “the US military is bad, just pull out” style of planning is how we turned a stable but unpleasant Iraq into ISIS. WW2 proved “no global cop” can result in the USA paying a larger price for peace long term. The flip side is not every genocide needs the global cop involved.

    My feeling on this one is we blew up an airfield, that’s a really cheap price if it buys us some respect and convinces Assad that he should be killing people without nerve gas for a while. I don’t buy the slippery slope argument, tit-for-tat is normally pretty workable.

    As far as I can tell…
    1) There are no viable “moderates” running around
    2) Assad might actually be the lesser of all the available evils.
    3) The Russians care about this a lot more than we do and they’re there.
    4) ISIS.
    5) This is on Europe’s front door, if they want to spend the blood and treasure, let them.
    6) If they *can’t* because they’re too weak, then this could be a learning experience on why that’s a bad idea.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Worse, the Obama-style “the US military is bad, just pull out”

      Um, no. The Obama style was “Iraq is a dysfunctional country, we’re at a ‘eh close enough’ in terms of political stability, and they weren’t going to budge on the SOFA”.

      His style was also “let’s do the same surge in Afghanistan”, then he learned “hey, Afghanistan is a dysfunctional country to, let’s get to a close enough political stability” – except that never came, due to actions on both the Administration’s and Government of Afghanistan part, (and that Afghanistan is even more dysfunctional than Iraq, or any place on earth aside from maybe Sudan). Obama never got the courage to just pull out and let the chips fall where they may, even though basically every other year was ‘the Taliban are back’.

      His style was also also ‘let’s send drones everywhere’, which is a combo of the US military and the CIA. So, no, Obama doesn’t believe the military is bad. But he also wasn’t willing to take any political risk with them either. (and if that is good or bad depends on your point of view)Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        The Iraqis weren’t going to budge on the SOFA because Obama sabotaged it by having our ambassador box in their parliament on Iraqi TV. They would have eventually budged for a real troop commitment by the US, but Obama refused that, too.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      “…buys us some respect…” Blowing stuff up doesn’t’ buy any respect. We’ve been engaged in kinetic fricking action all across the ME, parts of Africa and Asia for many years. The only people who think we don’t use our military to attack bad guys are conservatives in the US. In the many countries we attack they know very different.

      To much of conservative talk on military action comes down to “respect.” It’s all a dick swinging contest with the US needing to throw some little country against the wall every now and then. But plenty of people fear us and know exactly how good our military is. Foreign policy is about respect but clear achievable objectives and defined national interests. We should not be using the military to make people feel powerful and respected. Not when lives, ours or anybody else’s, are at stake.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        greginak: Blowing stuff up doesn’t’ buy any respect.

        Assad killed maybe 50 children and we blew up maybe 20 of his airplanes. That’s not a winning transaction for Assad.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I just don’t get the criticism of Obama’s handling of Iraq. For one thing we didn’t really leave, we just pulled out of the cities. For another you don’t even address the status of armed forces issue. You’re crazy if you think any president was going to allow American soldiers to be tried in Iraqi courts which was the sticking point. Trying to operate under those circumstances would have quickly forced us to chose between tolerating US soldiers prosecuted in foreign tribunals and overthrowing the very government we installed.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Also O campaigned on getting us out and McCain on trying to stay in. O won and followed through on Bush’s SOFA. As much as we can say the people choose things with elections, the people chose the guy saying that he would move us out of Iraq.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          the people chose the guy saying that he would move us out of Iraq.

          That sounds like one of those promises that should be honored in form but not substance. Pull some or most everyone out but leave enough that the Iraqi military is stronger than “a JV team”.

          Sort of like how I expect (hope?) Trump’s getting rid of immigrants will become “criminal immigrants” (yes, just like Obama), and so forth.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        InMD: You’re crazy if you think any president was going to allow American soldiers to be tried in Iraqi courts which was the sticking point.

        Agreed, but I’m assuming some of that was political pretext… “forcing” O to matching his campaign promises pretty closely.Report

  9. Avatar George Turner says:

    On a tangentially related note, we’re moving a carrier strike group toward the Korean peninsula.

    From the military geniuses at Reuters:

    “The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will ….”

    I wonder which aircraft carrier the Carl Vinson strike group includes? The Bush? The Reagan? The Stennis?Report

  10. Avatar Brian Murphy says:

    What would be a non-military way to deter the use of chemical weapons?Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      I know this one. You send Hans Brix to deliver a very angry letter.Report

    • Avatar davidly says:

      Well, one way from the American perspective, just to begin, at least, would be not to provide them to the user. I’m not saying that would put a 100 percent stop to their use, but again, it would be a start. Looking to the future, so to speak. Repeatedly, the enemies who are alleged to have used such weapons have been either directly provided them, funded to purchase them, or have gotten them by way of their “falling into the wrong hands”.Report

      • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

        The US didn’t provide Syria with chemical weapons. In fact, I’m pretty sure Syria has been a US adversary since its decolonization.Report

        • Avatar davidly says:

          Syria has been a US adversary since the US helped overthrow their first independent, democratically elected president. Wherefrom they received their weapons is not relevant to my point, which is that plenty of actors in that region have found themselves beneficiaries of American made military product and/or cash and training. The US’ track record on supporting their enemies’ enemies in this regard, as well as their ongoing funding and military support of the kind of Islamic regime so many in the West claim to be terrified of quite simply renders the circumstances surrounding this particular conflict and the Western interpretation thereof suspect. In short, if you don’t want the effect, don’t produce the cause. And, again, I know it’s not a solution to others who do ill will, but it’d be a place to start, rather than continue.Report

          • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

            The question was how to deter chemical weapons use. The root cause of conflict in the Mideast was the Paleolithic Revolution. Since 10k bc, the region hasn’t known peace except for the times it was dominated by Persian or Islamic empires.
            We’re not going to solve the roots of war, but we’ve been fairly successful at creating a norm against chemical weapons use.
            Once a state uses chemical weapons, what is the appropriate response?Report

            • Avatar davidly says:

              First response is to establish who did it and where they got it. However, I understand if you want to insist that this was carried out by the Assad regime (no further questions), then your expedient conflation of my references to aggravating American history, much of it as recently as the last few years, with a dismissive stone age analogy fits perfectly. So forgive me for wantonly breaking the rules of your thought experiment, i.e. none of what is being debated by the policy makers that matter has anything to do with preventing the use of chemical weapons. If by some miracle that were to become a very real part of that debate, one would certainly come to the realization that there exists no moral authority capable of making the decisions required to solve this problem. That is the unvarnished truth.Report

              • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

                Are you an Alex Jones fan that thinks this is a false flag operation pulled off by… the reptile people? aliens?

                If not, then the Occam’s razor suggests that these were leftovers not eliminated as required by the 2013 agreement. In that case, they were manufactured by… wait for it… THE SYRIANS (gasp!) It’s possible they could have come from the Iranians, but that’s unlikely given Iranians understandable visceral aversion to chemical weapons. Some people say the Russians, but I don’t think Russian has an interest in chemical weapons being used.
                If you’re going to disagree with the most plausible explanation, then the burden is on you to provide some evidence for your theory. In theory, we could wait for a forensic investigation. However, this is in a war zone, so we can’t exactly send in CSI-Syria.

                Also, this isn’t a “thought experiment.” Chemical weapons were used. A norm has been broken. One either has to:
                a) conduct military retaliation
                b) do nothing because the cost of doing something exceeds the value of the norm
                c) some other response

                Presumably you support b or c, but don’t have the intellectual honesty to actually admit which one and defend your position.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                Wrong. But you’re sure adept at all the classic techniques. An Alex Jones allusion. Brilliant. That’ll put me in my place. The only problem is that it is incumbent on the one making the claim that it was Assad to prove it. Occam’s razor should not provide reason for military response. I can’t understand why you’d be smart enough to conclude that I probably support “b” but have yet to figure out that the suggestions I made in lieu of a direct response to this incident would save far more lives, both immediately and in the long run.

                As to my intellectual dishonesty — well, your broad-stroked Conspiracy Theory for Dummies dodge might have something to say about that. But an intellectually honest person would immediately recognize that your question is a thought experiment whether the subject matter was real or not. I made that pretty clear when I mentioned it. Maybe try reading it again. Anyway, in a world where simplest explanations turn out to involve ways to create consent for military action, sometimes simple is simpler than the useful idiot is willing to admit.

                I wonder: Why would you care what I think far enough to attempt to smear me with Alex Jones? That is, I mean, insofar as it’s clear from the context of your response that it is less likely that I am an Info Warrior, and more likely that I’ll shrink at the allegation. Not that I am eager to embrace tit-for-tat way of communicating here, but could it be that you are one of the ilk who benefit from the majority of the world’s suffering while tediously droning on with your oh-so deadly logic while pretending to care?Report

              • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

                How would one go about “proving” that Assad used the weapons, much less where he got then? Such a thing can probably never be proven, and certainly never will be absent defections by the people that implemented the operation. Even if it were proven, you’d just say that the source of that information could not be trusted.

                The better question is: Do you have a plausible alternative theory?

                One can always say “what you think you see isn’t what you see.” For example, what about the “little green men” that have appeared in eastern Ukraine? You could say that this is a false flag operation organized by NATO to cause a war with Russia. But the most plausible explanation is that Russia is trying to destabilize a pro-Western Ukrainian government.

                I said that you probably supported b or c. However, I notice you’re still being coy. I mocked you because you sounded like Alex Jones, but really you’re worse than he is. He at least has the intellectual honesty to actually explain what he means and back it up. You instead like to hide behind a pretense of sophisticated skepticism… without having to either defend a position on military response or back up any of your outlandish insinuations that the chemical attacks were a false flag operation.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                How would one go about “proving” that Assad used the weapons, much less where he got then?

                davidly is *slightly* reasonable here. There *are* ways to look into how that happened, and those are going on now and we will learn the facts very soon, and waiting until we got those facts would have been a good idea.

                Of course, there functionally *is no other explanation*, no matter what davidly seems to think.

                Either the Syria government did this, or the Russian government did this for the Syria government. The rebels are not even slightly capable of manufacturing sarin at this point.

                Do you have a plausible alternative theory?

                The most plausible alternative theory I’ve heard is that either the Syrians or the Russians bombed their own chemical weapon facility, possibly after the rebels seized it. This seems farfetched, and doesn’t really absolve them of any blame, especially consider they were *supposed* to have removed all chemical weapons 4 years ago.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                I am not being coy. My non-interventionist attitude couldn’t make things any more clear. You just prefer to use your thought experiment as rules to a mini-discussion to avoid considering my other suggestions as an approach to avoid more such conflict in the future.

                The problem is that the very nature of The Great Game involves subterfuge that makes what under other circumstances would be plausible less so. Like Ukraine: contrary to your conclusion, the most plausible explanation is that both the US/NATO, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, have both worked and are working to destabilize factions for a more amenable government. And neither of those parties is doing it for humanitarian reasons. Case history makes this most plausible. You know, the quacking like a duck bit. It’s not a perfect science, but that’s Occam’s Razor for you and you brought it up — which, by the way, I have to give you props for: you could have simply said it’s been proved. End of discussion. I’ve seen plenty of that.

                Let me use the wise words of a man above petty skepticism to make the last point: How would one go about “proving” that it was someone other than “Assad” that used the weapons, much less where they got them? Such a thing can probably never be proven, and certainly never will be absent defections by the people that implemented the operation. Even if it were proven, you’d just say that the source of that information could not be trusted.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “My non-interventionist attitude couldn’t make things any more clear.”

                I think what’s confusing us is that you’ve got this attitude, but so does Patrick, but you’re also yelling at Patrick on the other comment thread for…something, I guess he isn’t agreeing with your All Wars Are The Same War Of Rich Against The Poor philosophy?

                “Let me use the wise words of a man above petty skepticism to make the last point: How would one go about “proving” that it was someone other than “Assad” that used the weapons, much less where they got them?”

                But you’re…the one suggesting it…might not have been Assad…?Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                I’m pretty sure I am not engaged with Patrick on another thread. Not presently anyway. I believe if you read my first reply to his question

                But you’re…the one suggesting it…might not have been Assad…?
                No, actually, the initial accusation is that it was Assad. That’s where the burden of proof should lie. “Most likely scenarios” is not good enough, in my opinion. And the history of lead-ups to escalation of conflict by the Americans is so rich with manipulations and untruth that the most rigid skepticism is in order whenever firing missiles and the like is so swiftly and unilaterally called for.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I’m not going to speak for Davidly but the plausible alternative theory is that what we saw resulted from use or destruction of a rebel chemical weapon, not a false flag. That doesn’t mean Assad forces didn’t in fact drop chemical weapons out of a jet as the Trump administration is asserting. What doesn’t make sense to me is the rush to accept this narrative as fact, particularly in light of past intelligence failures on these types of issues. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but does mean skepticism is warranted.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                What doesn’t make sense to me is the rush to accept this narrative as fact, particularly in light of past intelligence failures on these types of issues. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but does mean skepticism is warranted.

                The problem is the undisputed facts are pretty damning.

                Assad has an extensive history of dropping chemical weapons (CW) on his civilians (and for having this kind of CW). That’s why we and the Russians had an agreement to remove these weapons from him. The Rebels don’t have aircraft, chemical weapons, or a history of doing this. None of that is even disputed.

                Since the agreement, we’ve had a lot of reports of Assad continuing to drop (mostly industrial) chemicals on his civilians (as well as blowing up Hospitals, etc). Him dropping nerve gas isn’t a big change in technique or method, the only real difference is the media’s reaction.

                So this isn’t really “intelligence” so much as “common knowledge of what everyone on all sides already knows he’s doing”. Everyone else lacks the motivation, means, opportunity, history, or all four.

                I suppose it’s possible that the US nerve gassed them to make Assad look bad, but that’s getting into real tin-hat territory. Otherwise there’s… the Russians doing it for him? The Rebels gassing their own people to make him look bad? Maybe the rebels got their hands on some gas and the Russians blew it up?

                Note even that last one has serious problems. The rebels can’t make nerve gas, so who did? Worse, no one is claiming this, presumably because gassing civilians is so common that they don’t want to claim every specific event. What is disputed is whether or not chemical weapons were used at all. A little inelegant but that’s the party line for all of these sorts of things.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                We had people looking into white phosphorus incidents in Operation Cast Lead.

                There are plenty of eyes on lots of places. I’m not certain how much the gases and their aftereffects were actually watched via spy satellite.

                It can’t be that hard to figure out about people using nerve gas — that’s gotta be a unique set of effects to the people it was used on.

                Bit harder than flashbangs, because you don’t just need to find blood running out of people’s ears, but…Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            …if you don’t want the effect, don’t produce the cause. And, again, I know it’s not a solution to others who do ill will, but it’d be a place to start, rather than continue.

            Is it? What you’re doing is arm chair quarterbacking long after the fact, not only with perfect information but without solving the issues of the moment. Further you’re also assuming things would not have been worse if we’d just left them alone.

            Applied to Syria, presumably this line of thought means we stay out, which is fine as long as you’re willing to own up to letting children be nerve gassed. Maybe we can claim we don’t care about them because of their race or religion.

            Applying this logic to the big wars of history, what do we do with WW2 and the civil war? Stay out because they’re going to be ugly? The first gulf war?Report

            • Avatar davidly says:

              …which is fine as long as you’re willing to own up to letting children be nerve gassed.

              Again, and this is a crucial point, none of us here has any say-so. Hence my reference to Brian Murphy’s question about “what would you do to stop nerve gassing” as a thought experiment. What we believe and debate is a matter for snapshot polling, which is manufactured & manipulated as much as humanly possible to fit agendas other than those of Syrian children anyway. Evidence is clear that the aggregate corporate press works harder to sway sympathy to get into wars and engage in warfaring when it suits their desires and interests, not the consumers of the news they produce or the peoples they would allege to care about. I find it tragic that these consumers would engage in the same tactic of shaming that they do.

              In other words, the story is always in the style of the show 24, wherein “YOU GOTTA ACT NOW!” i.e. discussion about what led us here is for some other time. My point is that that is one method that gets the country to do more of those things that got us here: shamed into not discussing it, because, like, “Kids are dying, man!”

              Indeed, kids are dying. But while my stupid opinion somehow requires me to own up to being passively responsible for more of their deaths, current US action is more than just complicit in the horrific death of children in Yemen, to take one example, in numbers & conditions that would far out-nauseate, if as many press orgs chose to hammer us with it the way they have done the attacks in Syria.

              But if they were to go all in on the atrocities in Yemen (more than just a mention here & there or the occasional handwringing for “balance”) it might end up swaying sympathy towards not only disengaging from the war in Yemen, but also discontinuing support for the Saudi regime.

              Lest one “adult-splain” me the geo-political logic of maintaining Saud supremacy: For us to deny their culpability in spreading the ideology and methods or terror that the US claims to be fighting is tantamount to letting children be murdered on a scale that is impossible to depict, as it is quite simply removing the chance for society in a huge portion of the world to flourish peacefully. At a minimum, it compounds existing problems. but worse, as I maintain, it is in reality hard at work to maintain and extend the bloodshed so that more resources can be expended to deal with it. “Perpetual war” is not just a cute phrase some peacenik thought up, it is a warning about actual conditions to anyone who’ll listen.

              what do we do with WW2 and the civil war? Stay out because they’re going to be ugly? The first gulf war?

              As I hope is apparent from my diatribe above, staying out is not just because it would be ugly. It’s about stopping the proliferation of deadly foreign policy. Going in, on the other hand, is the other side of the thought experiment, because, going in has nothing to do with preventing atrocity or saving lives or establishing democracy or whatever other slogan is used at the time. Still, I will take your two examples in reverse order:

              The first Gulf War. Are you aware of what led to it? How about the background of how it came to be that Hussein was Iraqi President to begin with? Even if we forget the latter, we still should take a close look at how Hussein came to gas Kurds, who it was who didn’t give a shit at the time, and what it was that prompted GHW Bush to say, “This aggression will not stand.”

              When analyzing all of these, it should be abundantly clear that the war was not about preventing Saddam Hussein from becoming a stronger dictator. Conversely, not overthrowing him at the time, far from being a “mistake”, was quite intentional. When we wade through all that feces, it should be clear that the subsequent war with Iraq and the overthrowing of Qaddafi in Libya had precious little to do with establishing safe zones for anything but financial interests. There will be no American involvement in Syria that has anything other than an attempt to get things built that make certain people money.

              The earnest Liberal will tell you that, “Yeah, all that’s kinda true, but if we can save people as a side-effect…” Look at Iraq and Libya. Did the first or second wars in the Gulf save anyone? But I digress.

              Oddly enough, the US weaponizing of Saddam Hussein is no mystery. He was at war with Iran, after all, who were, and are apparently, high on the list of enemies to world freedom. The Americans replacing their democracy with the Shah because Mosaddegh wanted to take their own oil back tells us what the US thinks of democracy. So when the blowback from that action proved to be worse than losing rights to tap their earth and distribute their product, they supported Hussein in invading them.

              The see-no, hear-no, speak-no evil functionaries in the US would say history is history, we gotta fight the hand-chopping theocracy, forget about the Saudis and their head-chopping for the moment. And forget about the Kurds. We’ll use that tale later when it comes to rolling into Baghdad.

              While we’re at it, we can forget that the US covert fed the Iranians weapons so that they could, apparently, as far as we can tell, fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Hm. Supporting rebels to fight their government. Must be about freedom.

              So, anyway, Kuwait was slant-drilling into Iraq. Everybody knew it, it was reported on enough and was a key topic when the American ambassador met with Hussein in 1990. We can quibble about what she actually said to him, but clearly the Americans had zero concern with asking Kuwait what they thought might happen as a result. At any rate, Iraq’s subsequent invasion alone wasn’t believed to be enough for public opinion so stories about Kuwaiti babies being yanked from incubators by the invaders made their rounds and the American bombing raids and counter-invasion was well under way before anyone bothered to question it.

              To the point: Not invading Iraq was not on the script. Still, I suppose you could have said to me then that non-intervention would be “fine as long as you’re willing to own up to letting babies get yanked from their incubators.”

              Non-invasion not being in the cards, however, what we think is moot.

              As far as WWII is concerned, Hitler’s rise to power is told in countless documentaries that always feature the aspects of internecine politics amidst an impoverished Germany, and things akin to looking the other way, like “appeasement” and the like. But brushed into the background is the financial and industrial backing the fucking madman got from the allies, in particular, the Americans. Par for the course, of course, the US gets the credit that the Russians deserve in having defeated him. What the Brits & Yanks did was raze the country with bombs made by a nascent industry that Ike eventually warned us about. And, oh yeah, the US also dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. They were an untold murderous psychos who could have been defeated otherwise, is the tale I know. That and we saved lives.

              Why does the US/NATO want to oust Assad? Will doing so really save more Syrian children’s lives than will as a consequence be lost, not just over the course of the current US presidential term, but over the next couple of decades? Will it make peace in that region more or less likely?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                the story is always in the style of the show 24, wherein “YOU GOTTA ACT NOW!” i.e. discussion about what led us here is for some other time.


                …their culpability in spreading the ideology and methods or terror that the US claims to be fighting…

                Also agreed that the Saudis are one of the roots of the problem.

                He was at war with Iran, after all, who were, and are apparently, high on the list of enemies to world freedom.

                True… but pointing to every problem as stemming from previous problems is a way to avoid questions rather than answer them.

                The first Gulf War. Are you aware of what led to it? How about the background of how it came to be that Hussein was Iraqi President to begin with?

                Yes, but we don’t have a time travel machine to undo our backing Saddam. You get to pretend that you’re Bush #1 (not God), and Saddam has just invaded his neighbor.

                Regardless of whose fault it is that we’re here, doing nothing may be really nasty. Saddam is seriously empowered, he’s got the largest army in the area and he’s right next door to Saudi Arabia. If he invades Saudi Arabia then he’s got half the world’s oil.

                As far as WWII is concerned, Hitler’s rise to power is told in countless documentaries…

                If the solution to every global problem is to go back 20 years and prevent the cause, then you have no answers until time travel in invented.

                So try again. Gulf War 1, WW2. Saddam/Hitler have already started invading people, what do you suggest we do?

                Why does the US/NATO want to oust Assad?

                Assad may be the world’s leading mass murderer who is still holding power. Supporting people a lot less bad is one of the things that leads you to blame the US for various events in history.

                He’s also creating refugees, committing large numbers of war crimes, suppressing democracy, and supporting the Russians. I’m not sure to what extent we can blame him for terrorism and destabilizing his neighbors, somewhere between a little and a lot.

                It’s worth thinking about whether we should be removing him. It’s worth wondering how peaceful post-WW2 Germany would have been if we’d left Hitler in charge.

                Whether that’s a workable policy depends on what we think happens on day 2 if he’s gone, and day 2000, and how much we’re willing to pay to support things afterwards… and yes, ISIS and the Russians.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                We’re a gonna just have to agree to disagree.

                True… but pointing to every problem as stemming from previous problems is a way to avoid questions rather than answer them.

                No. It is a way to call out the phony premise of the question. You’re spinning the argument 180 degrees, which is more of the same phony premise peddling that places the aforementioned “Do something!” mongering ahead of preventing more of the problems that led us to where we are.

                I’ve indicated clearly enough that contrary to the suggestion that I am positing some kind of time machine solution, I am looking at the patterns of the past as a way to analyze not just present realities, but truth versus lie in how one should respond to those present realities. Those urging regime change are doing so based upon a version of a truth from an intel-apparatus that has, to date, never ever, ever ever ever told the truth.

                I cannot resist, however, dealing with a couple of hindsight hypotheticals of your own:

                So try again. Gulf War 1, WW2. Saddam/Hitler have already started invading people, what do you suggest we do?

                We not only did nothing to stop Hitler when he had long started invading people, but we (excuse my use of “we”) continued to feed him with cash, raw materials, red, white & blue moral sympathies, and Coca Cola, for chrisakes! These two examples are a better study in how the “propping them up and knocking them over” policy serves certain interests on both ends of bloody conflict. Having said all that, whatever truth you wanna peddle regarding Assad, he is invading no one.

                Regardless of whose fault it is that we’re here, doing nothing may be really nasty. Saddam is seriously empowered, he’s got the largest army in the area and he’s right next door to Saudi Arabia. If he invades Saudi Arabia then he’s got half the world’s oil.

                We cannot move on from “doing nothing is really nasty” without begging the question. Your subsequent hypothetical is based upon the spin of lies that occurs whenever the construction of casus belli is underway. To use another analogy: whenever US History students are asked what caused WWI, the multiple choices include the sinking of the Lusitania as well as the assassination of the archduke. In my school if you answered the Lusitania, you’d get it wrong because the academic exercise on our test had to do with “things that led to” vs. definitive “triggers”. Yet no test I have seen includes the British desire for supremacy in petroleum transport. As a people, then as now, we ignore our overlords intentions to our peril and their profit.

                We can argue what would be if Germany had snagged logistical dominance in Europe at the dawn of the 20th century (instead of, ironically enough, the end of it). But that is based on an anti-German bias that includes what happened subsequent to their desire to do precisely what the British Empire was trying to do, and more specifically, prevent them from doing it in their back yard.

                Likewise, “what caused the first Gulf War” is said to have been not just their invasion of Kuwait, but the dire threat the invasion of Saudi Arabia would mean. We got our expert analysis of such from an array of pentagon spokespeople on CNN as well as actors “we” could dig up who would make the “yanking babies from incubators” claim. They overwhelm the media cycle with spin and speculation based upon untruth.

                If the US thought Hussein was a threat to conquer the Saudis, why back them against Iran? Oh, that’s right. Iran is “eeeevil”. Kind of like…

                Also agreed that the Saudis are one of the roots of the problem.

                …who, because of a special relationship, are never ever described as evil by the same spinning experts. In fact, we fight with them at our side.

                But what if the US had done nothing and Iraq had taken over Saudi oil? One could easily make the argument that the world would be better off. I’m not sure where your version of the time machine argument is intending to go. I do know that I’m not buying the argument that…

                Assad may be the world’s leading mass murderer who is still holding power. Supporting people a lot less bad is one of the things that leads you to blame the US for various events in history.

                He “may be” indeed. So may the US. As far as numbers go, I have no doubt that the US is the world’s leading mass murderer. Not just historically, but presently.

                He’s also creating refugees, committing large numbers of war crimes, suppressing democracy, and supporting the Russians. I’m not sure to what extent we can blame him for terrorism and destabilizing his neighbors, somewhere between a little and a lot.

                Are you aware what the removal of Hussein and Qaddafi have done to create refugees and war crimes? How are Iraq and Libya’s democracies doing? How has US/NATO action in these, let’s face it, former states done anything but destabilize Assad’s neighbors? A little? A lot?

                You just blamed Assad of doing what precisely the currently touted putative solution has done. That solution has been proven wrong in the most recent historical sense possible. And when you look at the most influential people supporting that solution, in can either lead you to the most logical conclusion about their ulterior motives, or you can spin it back to me with a, “WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING!” And, again, even if “we” do, it’s not you and me doing it. We’re at best useful idiots either way, and even then, not even that useful.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                I am looking at the patterns of the past as a way to analyze not just present realities, but truth versus lie in how one should respond to those present realities. 

                The thing about pretending you’re never going to need to deal with Hitler in ‘41 (because you’ll have been smarter about it in ‘35 and ‘39) is that doesn’t help you if you’ve just won an election or if you didn’t see it coming.

                Worse, your core solution seems to be “don’t get involved, we’ll just make it worse”, which more or less was our policy at the time… and you’re holding up us not stopping Hitler early in his career as an error which seems very backward from the rest of what you’re suggested.

                …whenever US History students are asked what caused WWI… no test I have seen includes the British desire for supremacy in petroleum transport. 

                WW1 had more than it’s fair share of misunderstandings and miscalculations. Even with the benefit of hindsight, wars can have multiple causes and it’s easy to point out single points where they might have been headed off. Whether that’s useful thinking or not is unclear.

                If the US thought Hussein was a threat to conquer the Saudis, why back them against Iran?

                Because we didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, perfect intel, and were faced with imperfect actors and imperfect choices. Further your answer once again requires a time travel machine to implement.

                Knowing that previous (or even the current) administration(s) screwed up doesn’t change that the current situation is what it is.

                But what if the US had done nothing and Iraq had taken over Saudi oil?

                Now that’s an actual suggestion that could be implemented.

                By all means, please “easily make the argument the world would be better off” letting a megalomaniac mass murder his way to controlling the world’s oil. Explain it as you would to a Kurd. While you’re at it you can explain why letting Hitler conquer Europe wouldn’t have been that bad as though to a Jew.

                As far as numbers go, I have no doubt that the US is the world’s leading mass murderer. Not just historically, but presently.

                And yet people flee Syria in large numbers and flock to the USA.

                Are you aware what the removal of Hussein and Qaddafi have done to create refugees and war crimes? How are Iraq and Libya’s democracies doing? How has US/NATO action in these, let’s face it, former states done anything but destabilize Assad’s neighbors? A little? A lot?

                Are you aware that Obama was as close to a follower of your own belief set as we’re likely to get as President, and all the problems you’re pointing out happened on his watch and stem from his policies? Bush put us in Iraq but (amazingly) handed a stable situation off to Obama.Report

  11. Avatar Kimmi says:

    No, we are NOT where we’d have been with the Clintons in charge. 200 days in, and we’d be looking at limited nuclear strikes, in all probability.

    A vote for Trump here, on the grounds that Hillary went crazy.

    You want us to accept all the refugees, when we can’t even stop American parents from paying others to murder their children. Hell, here’s an idea: get rid of the rejected children, and give the newly-freed parents refugee children. Everyone wins.Report

    • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

      Where has Clinton advocated nuclear weapons as a proportionate response to chemical weapons?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        You mean in writing? Nowhere, of course.
        The issue with Clinton is escalation and lack of proportionality. I’m not saying she’d have nuked Syria, even. Just that the odds of limited nuclear war were pretty high with her (1 in 3, maybe?).
        Of course, the other issue is that the military would have said “Yes Sir!” to her orders, whereas they probably won’t if Trump says to drop nukes.Report

        • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

          Writing, speaking, sign language, Morse code, psychic emanations, interpretative dance, ululation, abstract expressionist painting… has she expressed it by any means whatsoever?
          Or is this just your “bitches be crazy” theory of international relations?Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            Clinton was about as “confirmed crazy” as Karzai. She’d scream at walls for hours on end, during the 2016 campaign. Hell, she had the secret service help her destroy her hotel room the night Trump won the election.

            Mind, this was something that happened in 2016. In 2012, she was merely a “worse than Obama,” but still a decent Democrat that could be trusted to do what Democrats wanted.

            Plus, I didn’t like the coalition she was assembling — they would have been happily pro war. When you get backers who see the way out of our recession as “WAR!”, welll, that’s not a good sign.Report

            • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

              You think HRC is genuinely mentally ill. Wow! I never heard that one before. Where’d you get your info? Russia Today?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Brian, I know someone who’s worked for the Clintons for ages now. (Since before they were in Washington on a permanent basis).Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                You’ll find that Kimmi knows enough in-the-know people on enough topics as to make publicly available information obsolete, which is fortunate because they almost always contradict publicly available information.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                It’s not my fault if you’re blind. Publicly available information reveals a whole lot more than you’d believe.


                Just that one picture was enough to reveal to several skilled expert witnesses that it was probably self-inflicted.

                If you want to play the photo analysis game, we can. If you want some evidence that I know some of the best in the business, I can throw down.

                How widely available does something have to be to be public, anyway?Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                This appears to be an article about somebody named Ashley Todd who filed a false report about being attacked for her politics.

                No doubt there’s a direct line here to “Hillary Clinton is a crazy person who screams at walls for hours on end,” and “Hillary Clinton had the Secret Service destroy a hotel room without anybody noticing,” but I suppose this is where my blindness comes in.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                No, there’s a decent line there to the stuff about Hillary’s Campaign that I’m not telling you about.

                Because trolls gotta troll, and to do so, you need to grab the tears of the losers.
                Given the sheer expense of said photography, does it really seem out of line to grab some security footage from Hillary’s hotel room?

                I’m dead certain people noticed she destroyed the hotel room for god’s sake. But it takes a freaking terrorist attack to get through a hotel’s “privacy” settings, when set high enough.


                You don’t hear about the person munching on electric wires, the people who welded themselves into huge unwieldly cages… etc. And you definitely don’t hear about the people who intentionally leak bodily fluids onto passersby.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Chlorine gas at a furry convention? I’m almost 100% convinced that Hillary Clinton is the crazy one now.

                Except for this one thing. Note the patterns in the sweeping clouds. If Hillary Clinton is crazy and yells at walls, how could that video have been made?

                Something still doesn’t add up. The data just aren’t quite fitting together. But we’re close. Maybe if we keep aggregating our links the picture will become clear.Report

              • Avatar Francis says:

                Please don’t forget that, per Kimmi, the Powers That Be threaten each incoming President in person with certain death if he does not accommodate the PTB’s wishes during his term in office. Every single President is so terrified of the PTBs that this information has never leaked, except to Kimmi’s friends.

                Kimmi also knows, for certain, that AIs are now so good on interpreting English that there exists an AI that can deliberately draft a contract so cleverly ambiguous that the best lawyers cannot understand how they are being tricked.

                Those two are the ones that have stayed with me. Others may remember different Kimmi tales.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I just hope you didn’t want a new car anytime soon, @francis .Report

              • Avatar Francis says:

                well it all works out OK since Kimmi believes, per the other thread, that the 17 million unit sales of new cars last year is going to plummet to zero in the upcoming recession.

                [I actually read the sales agreement for the last car I bought. It was pretty straightforward.]Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Kimmie also believes that, upon taking office, the real powers that be held a literal gun to Obama’s head so he’d know to toe the line.

                She also believes there’s an AI that controls the internet.

                Her beliefs on Clinton are actually slightly more….extreme…than her other beliefs, which is saying a lot given, you know, some of her other beliefs.Report

            • she had the secret service help her destroy her hotel room the night Trump won the election.

              That was actually zombie Keith Moon.Report

  12. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    For everyone who wants to “do nothing”.

    There was a point in time when suicide attacks were rare and vile to the point of non-existence. The big religions condemn both suicide and murder.

    Terror groups normalized their use against Israel. After they were used once or twice, I remember religious leaders in Israel trying to get their Arab counterparts to condemn their use and try to head off the entire idea. However it was thought that these types of attacks were so nasty they’d only be used against Jews. And now they’re a standard everywhere for everyone.

    The same could presumably happen with chemical weapons.Report

    • Avatar gregiank says:

      Suicide attacks predate Israel by a little bit.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Suicide attacks predate Israel by a little bit.

        But their widespread use went out of fashion after WW2. Given how much of Israel’s conflict is religiously motivated, a “do this and you go to hell” statement by religious leaders *might* have meant a lot. Or maybe it’s effectiveness meant it was always going to become widespread.

        Similarly the US blowing up airplanes used for CW attacks *might* head this off… but since CW get easier and easier to make as the general level of technology gets higher and as everyone gets richer, maybe we’ll just have to live with more and more actors using CW.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Driving a truck into a crowd or making a simple bomb is a hellava lot easier then CW. CW is much more of a thing for established states that have air forces and conventional militaries. Suicide attacks are primarily the weapons of groups that can’t fight conventional wars effectively.

          CW is old tech that requires a lot of upkeep. It’s old fashioned, not some new and fashionable thing. Drones are the in thing.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Suicide attacks are primarily the weapons of groups that can’t fight conventional wars effectively.

            That’s what they’ve morphed into. However I think they were developed, refined, and implemented by nation states for cost/political effectiveness reasons.

            They’re a nasty tool which has been copied.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              The Japanese obviously made the most use of suicide attacks. This happened out of desperation after they were doomed to lose. They couldn’t train their pilots to fight effectively and were getting out built and were numerically doomed. Even then Kamikaze attacks could, and did, cause grievous causalities but they never had a chance to turn the tide of the war.

              The grim fact is that the enemy always has a choice. They have the choice to die. Outside of active battlefield bad peeps can choose when and how to die. There is actually no way to prevent a lot of that. Especially lone wolf type attacks using commonly found weapons. That doesn’t mean we do nothing but it does mean need to understand the nature of the threat and what can be done short of trying to take over every place bad dudes might hide. ( pro tip; we can’t control every place in the world bad dudes can hide)Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      In 1983, Reagan withdrew US forces from Lebanon after a truck bomb killed 241 Marines. He said:

      “Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines’ safety that it should have.”Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Complexities? That was State (Iranian) sponsored terrorism pretending to be something more organic and “complex”.

        It’s taken years but we’ve got multiple legal judgements to that effect. The most recent being the Supremes. In April 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that frozen assets of Iran’s Central Bank held in the U.S. could be used to pay the compensation to families of the victimsReport

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        Sorry, borrowed that whole bit from here.Report

  13. Avatar Will H. says:

    I gave up commenting, but I found this very touching. I have thought of this myself often, in various contexts. The results are not particularly delightful, as they most often lead to one of two extremes.
    It is to provide a base for further consideration that I respond here.

    Are these a people deserving of rights, of any manner of right whatever?
    Is it not true that to be predatory, not only to outsiders, but to those close among them, is held as the highest ideal of this people?
    Who then can say that any manner of act whatever enacted against this people, provided it is predatory in nature, is not fully justified?
    How is it that voter fraud could possibly be wrongful, when it is the predatory act to which this people aspire most?

    That sort of thing.

    So, to begin with:

    1) Every social institution, its original purpose notwithstanding, eventually, over a period of time, evolves to serve those who use it the most.

    2) Every social institution, through this course of development, eventually, over a period of time, evolves to take on the character of its primary constituency by which it is dominated.

    From there, we can ask: Who is it, exactly, that these things represent?
    Either they represent the people, broadly, or they represent a portion of them.

    This leads, with very few steps, to questions of whether our government is actually a legitimate one, or merely a step on the way to greater social tumult, after which a greater ratio of persons will be represented in the government.

    For my part, I become more and more convinced that domestic military action is the best of all possible solutions.
    The severity of the breakdown of oversight mechanisms at the state level suggests there is no viable alternative.

    Entrenched power structures, festering in their own rot like a tooth with abscess, may be extracted far more easily than the healthier teeth, though not without some degree of pain.
    And much blood.

    Blood is the currency by which rights are purchased.Report

  14. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    “War. War never changes.”


    Hello Patrick.

    Just passin by and sayin hi…Report

  15. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Ain’t nuttin like an elebum ton bomb dropped by a Republican president to resurrect the antiwar center left from the dead.Report

    • You’ve seen these figures, yes?

      A new Washington Post-ABC poll on President Trump’s missile strike in Syria has an interesting partisan breakdown when compared to hypothetical support for strikes by President Obama in 2013:

      Democratic support: 38% support in 2013, 37% support in 2017
      Republican support: 22% support in 2013, 86% support in 2017

      I’m against on both sides, though more against when it’s being done by someone who has no fucking clue what he’s doing.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I have, though for a complete apples to apples comparison I wonder what the stats for the actual missile strikes Obama did elsewhere in the world, and how the 38% figure (or the 22% one) in 2013 would have changed were the missile strikes shifted from hypothetical to actual back then (i.e. rally around the president and/or flag effect)

        There’s also a lot of question begging and question avoidance on the internet right now of how the heck ISIS is in Afghanistan right now.Report