Air Strikes In Syria

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    I am torn on Syria. There are no good choices and the available options are all so bad it’s very difficult to tell which path is the least bad.

    On the one hand, the effects on human beings and on a nation are utterly heartbreaking. Syria has lost 15% of its total population in its civil war. About a third of that is diaspora, the rest have been shot, starved, gassed, untreated of curable medical conditions, or otherwise killed by the vagaries of war.

    And of course it is an atrocity that chemical weapons are used, it is a violation of international law, and that is worth enforcing. Which is how you get profound observations from otherwise-serious people like this one:

    https://twitter.com/SlaughterAM/status/985139861538689024

    Which is accurately translated as:

    https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/985153005312978944

    But there’s no reason to think that limited missile strikes, even if they’re more significant than last year’s volley, will have any durable effect on anything. Indeed, there’s every reason to think that Assad will shrug this off too.

    If we’re going to go to war in Syria, then we need to **go to war**. If we’re not, because we’ve neither the blood nor treasure to spare, and simply cannot risk provoking Russia, then we’re going to write Syria off.

    And for us, that may be the best option. The war there obviously can’t be resolved in any way favorable for the United States and the rest of the West.

    Which gets to the awful logic that the best humanitarian outcome may well be the Assad government taking control and re-imposing its brutal police state upon a population that will still suffer low-level violence at the hands of its own government but at least not be an open battlefield.

    That’s what a “pick the least bad option” decision looks like in Syria. And I hate saying it.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      Sad but true. Doing nothing is likely the best option of all the crappy options.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Concurred, the missile strikes aren’t going to accomplish anything but blowing up the argument that Trump was going to be less Hawkish than HRC.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to North
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          says:

          Those who believed Trump was going to be less bellicose, belligerent and hawkish were naive. It’s not like Trump hasn’t already ramped up airstrikes in various places we are bombing before today. Is this going to change any of those peoples views? Maybe on the margins at most.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      If we’re going to go to war in Syria, then we need to **go to war**. If we’re not, because we’ve neither the blood nor treasure to spare, and simply cannot risk provoking Russia, then we’re going to write Syria off.

      Russia is a fox. A fox is FAR more provoked by a rabbit’s helplessness than a honey badger’s ferocity.

      This gas attack was on the one year anniversary of our last encounter. It’s best viewed as a test by Russia to see whether we’re a rabbit or badger.

      But there’s no reason to think that limited missile strikes, even if they’re more significant than last year’s volley, will have any durable effect on anything. Indeed, there’s every reason to think that Assad will shrug this off too.

      100 misiles is more expensive than whatever we blew up, but we can afford it a lot more than he can. Now that everyone has measured everyone else and seen where the lines are drawn, everyone will shrug and go about their business.

      And yes, for Assad that means mass murder, but without his chemical weapons because they’re more trouble than they’re worth. But if you’re looking for a way to encourage everyone to use Chemicals, then doing nothing to Assad is the way to do it.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Dark Matter
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        says:

        The chem attack also came the same week Trump said he wanted all our troops out. That is a possible connection. Russia will likely make up Assad’s losses.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to greginak
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          says:

          The chem attack also came the same week Trump said he wanted all our troops out. That is a possible connection.

          Probably. We did a “rabbit” move.

          My brother had a large dog from a fairly dominate breed. Frequent dominance “checks” was part of the package. “Am I dominate now?” “Well, am I dominate now?” “He walked in front of the master, he’s dominate, maybe I am too!”Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            When every encounter is viewed as a dick measuring contest, then the entire world looks like a ruler.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              When every encounter is viewed as a dick measuring contest, then the entire world looks like a ruler.

              It’s the measuring the size of yours by how willing you are to shed blood which seems to be the problem.

              Thing is I don’t see how we walk away from that without making things worse.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                “Bashir, let us see if Trump is a rabbit or a honey badger.”

                “Sir, reports are that he bombed a bunch of crap that won’t slow us down in the least. And is bragging about it on Twitter like its VJ day.”

                “Ah. A braying jackass, it is then. Carry on.”Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Sir, reports are that he bombed a bunch of crap that won’t slow us down in the least.

                That is the worst case.

                Best is that he killed people (or destroyed stuff) that matters… but I’m seeing pictures of buildings. Last time we targeted Assad’s air power which could be a big deal in a war.

                Thing is I’m not sure we actually want Assad to lose. He might be the least bad guy to put in charge there.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to greginak
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          says:

          Which would be the dumbfrtiz move of all time if so. “Hey one of our adversaries may be departing the battlefield, and most of the rest of world is mostly ignoring what’s happening lately – so let’s do something that will get *everyone’s* attention”Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Kolohe
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            says:

            Well DF moves are always an option. I would think the Assad calculus is more sending the message ” you’re F’d, nobody can protect you. I’m here and can do whatever i want” That message has been sent effectively. He gassed people a year ago and suffered nothing in return. He does it again and takes something to be determined but nothing that can be fixed or really hurts him. He shows himself as strong, resolute and the hammer of his foes. His victims will see him still there and strong. Do his victims really think he won’t gas them again? No.

            Cruise missiles are nifty weapons. But it also clear when we use them like this that we aren’t willing to risk any causalities for this. We are willing to risk nothing even though it limits our effectiveness. It’s hard to keep track of the various groups in the civil war over there. The troops and planes we have over may actually still be killing people Assad is just fine with while we are striking him. And if i remember correctly we recently backed off some of support for the Kurds recently. So that doesn’t add up to all that much punishment of Assad.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to greginak
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              says:

              We showed that we can put a cruise missile through Assad’s bedroom window and there’s not a thing he can do about it. We once blew up one of Qadaffi’s houses, and we blew up Slobodan Milosevic’s house. Since Assad is the face of the regime, he’s the most obvious target to strike if the poison gas situation recurs. Maybe he won’t be home when we strike. Maybe his family won’t be home. Who can say? It might be best if he doesn’t put that option on Trump’s briefing table because Trump likes winning.Report

              • Avatar Mr.JoeM in reply to George Turner
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                says:

                The threat of Assad meeting the business end of a Tomahawk missile is not credible at this point. For the last 40 years US has taken the stance, at least publicity, that political killings, includes heads of state are illegal. We would have to very loudly rescind that policy both by multiple loud declarations and also landing a Tomahawk on someone else’s head.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Mr.JoeM
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                says:

                Even if we did, the question becomes, then what happens?

                Its not like there are any good guys waiting in the wings to step up to the plate.
                We could easily end up with Assad The Worser, Client State of Greater Russia, and Alliance Partner of Iran.

                There are some problems we just can’t bomb our way out of.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mr.JoeM
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                says:

                Though if there’s anyone likely to break a rule and/or norm, his name is Donald Trump.

                (I’m pretty sure that the airstrikes that kicked of OIF in 2003 were planned so there was a reasonable chance of taking out Saddam, though I doubt it was a primary objective.)Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                1986 attack on Libya targetted Gaddafi directly.

                In 1976 Ford signed an EO that abjured Political Assassinations… which might be something observed in the covert breech. Relatively certain that military force aimed at a head of state is not considered a Political Assassination.

                Now, an unauthorized military action that also kills a head of state might be construed as a high crime depending on the circumstances.Report

    • Avatar ZedIsNotALetter in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      Easy for you to say, with far less skin in the game.
      Care to guess the three places in America most likely to have been destroyed last weekend?

      We have lists of “Where to nuke Russia”
      They have lists of “Where to Nuke America”

      This brings us one step closer to Global Nuclear War.Report

  2. Avatar Andrew Donaldson
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    says:

    One thing we learned from this, and more important than the actual strike itself for where we go from here; Russian talk of “full-blown military escalation” was-at least for now-unfounded. We are in communication with the Russians, told them to go stand in the corner while we smacked their boy Assad’s hands, and despite all their bellowing they did just that, moving out of the way and sitting this one out. As always, ignore most of what the Kremlin says and believe their actions. Their goal is still appearance of power projection and increasing arms sales and fighting US/coalition forces straight up hurts both those objectives. But the overall equation for US hasn’t changed much, other than Assad will think harder knowing Russia doesn’t really have his back. There are still no good options. There is no win here, just divergent paths of bad.Report

    • Avatar ZedIsNotALetter in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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      says:

      Oh, what fools we mortals be!

      Yes, this is what a simple, reductionist viewpoint will tell you.

      It’s flat out wrong, of course — on a variety of levels.

      First — Risks Aplenty:
      1) if the US screwed up and bombed the Russian Military Bases (which look a little like the Syrian Miltary bases), Then we’re up Shit Creek. Well, me personally. Probably not you.
      2) If the US fucks up enough to get Americans killed, then we look weak. Makes an attack, an escalation out of Russia a lot more likely.

      Second: We’re not in a MAD MAD world anymore. This is limited, local war that smells an awful lot like Yugoslavia, if you know what I mean. Every escalation has the potential to be the one that the other side responds to.

      This was a really, really stupid thing to do. And I don’t just say that because I’ve got more skin in the game than you do.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to ZedIsNotALetter
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        says:

        To your points:
        1) The Russians knew and scurried out of the way, the only way they were going to get hit is if they purposefully wanted to be. If they wanted an escalation they were handed it on a plate…they declined and stood aside.
        2) Our casualties are not a measure of weakness/strength. If so, how does the 300 odd mercenaries the Russians lost at Deir al-Zor look?

        While I can see how the Yugoslavia/Balkan wars is a tempting comparision, I do not think it applicable here. Those were ethnic/religious wars. While Syria has elements of that it is much more complicated. This is a proxy war, within which is contained a civil war, which is being fought between various degrees of very bad people with a lot of innocent ones caught in the middle. Amount of skin in the game, as you put it, doesn’t have bearing on seeing those facts clearly.Report

      • Avatar jason in reply to ZedIsNotALetter
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        says:

        Kimmi, is that you?Report

        • Avatar Maribou, Moderator in reply to jason
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          says:

          @jason The poster in question seems to hold different viewpoints than Kimmi does. Also she has been scrupulous so far in her acceptance of the 1-year suspension, several months in, and has not tried to get around it. So, I’m guessing not.

          (And if it was a joke, dude, I totally get the temptation and assume it was meant kindly, but teasing people about being each other is kinda risky when it comes to not making people feel attacked… either the person teased or the person being referred to will generally feel hurt…)Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    No one at any level of government, or even in the pundit class, has bothered to articulate what our goals are for Syria, or anywhere else in the Mideast for that matter.

    What happens if Assad stays in power?
    What follows him if he doesn’t?
    Where is our interest?

    Compare this to the war in Yemen. Yes, you will have to google it because we aren’t hearing anything about it, because…well, crap, I am not sure why the Syrian civil war now in its 8th year has suddenly become of urgent national interest while Yemen hasn’t.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Compare this to the war in Yemen. Yes, you will have to google it because we aren’t hearing anything about it, because…well, crap, I am not sure why the Syrian civil war now in its 8th year has suddenly become of urgent national interest while Yemen hasn’t.

      The media. They’re reporting global news as though it’s national or local news. Yemen has few to no pictures and no media presence.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Dark Matter
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        says:

        There’s no Daesh in Yemen and there hasnt been thebuse of WMDs. That’s why there isn’t the same press coverage.

        Yemen does get a visibilty spike every so often – probably about the same rate as Syria when averaged over the past 8 to 9 year (like that time some US destroyers intercepted missiles launched at them fron Yemen)

        (Man, remember when Qatar was a big huge crisis)

        (Heck, rember when a big fight between Israel and Palestine would capture everyone’s attention for weeks or months at a time?)Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Kolohe
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          says:

          (Heck, remember when a big fight between Israel and Palestine would capture everyone’s attention for weeks or months at a time?)

          That was also local news. Israel does a military operation against terrorism, kills four(ish) people, and it gets broadcasted as “genocide”.

          The rest of the world got more sympathetic when it became everyone’s problem and we discovered, yeah, doing operations like that really is the least evil option.Report

          • Avatar ZedIsNotALetter in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            You mean the Israel that kills their collaborators children?

            That Israel?

            https://bbcwatch.org/tag/operation-cast-lead/Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to ZedIsNotALetter
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              says:

              …the Israel that kills their collaborators children?

              From your link.

              Listeners heard nothing whatsoever on the topic of why that conflict – Operation Cast Lead – began and no mention was made of the thousands of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians which preceded it.

              As the synopsis to the promoted clip indicates, the BBC is well aware of the background to the incident and hence knows that Dr Abuelaish’s daughters were not “targeted”. … Moreover, having covered this story many times, the BBC is most likely aware that Dr Abuelaish had been advised to leave his house prior to the incident.

              Readers can judge for themselves whether or not Menendez’s repeated claim that Dr Abuelaish has “turned his tragedy into a powerful plea for reconciliation” is supported by his interviewee’s entirely one-sided messaging. However, in an item in which words such as ‘Hamas’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘rocket attacks’ did not appear even once and vital context was omitted, it is blatantly obvious that BBC World Service audiences did not hear a balanced account of this story.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    What was the point of these most recent strikes?

    Stopping chemical attacks, either by dismantling their ability to execute them or deterrence?
    Ending the civil war?
    Signaling?
    Something else?

    Do we even know?Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    Little noticed, earlier this month the Department of Defense esstentially declared it was official policy that wars never end

    Also, it is with the grimest amusement seeing Woke Military twitter all aghast and appalled at Woke Mainline Twitter for the latter doing whataboutism regarding various US protests in the past few years and the use of tear gas on those protests.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      Forgot to add – we’re also continuing to nation build without an actual nation to build.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        We’re in a weird place where vulgar utilitarianism would be better than whatever the hell it is we’re doing now.

        Those places are usually bad.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          It is. If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians. I wouldn’t want to live under that government but it’s the most preferable choice among factions capable of winning.

          Sometimes I wonder if the secret goal isn’t in fact to sustain the conflict because it keeps Syria weak and inward looking.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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            says:

            Sometimes I wonder if the secret goal isn’t in fact to sustain the conflict because it keeps Syria weak and inward looking.

            This would take a MUCH higher level of competence and secrecy than anyone is able to do.

            It is. If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians.

            The perfect was the enemy of the good. Or in this case, the perfect is being made the enemy of the least evil.

            Trying to explain the Godzill Threshold to pearl clutching voters insisting on an ethical solution is a non-starter as long as they’re comfortably sitting at home not needing to make hard choices.

            Edit: See also what we did with Iran with the Shaw in the name of preventing Communism.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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              says:

              Trying to explain the Godzill Threshold to pearl clutching voters insisting on an ethical solution is a non-starter as long as they’re comfortably sitting at home not needing to make hard choices.

              Serious question. Do voters actually care about this? I mean, the media clearly wants a war to cover, plenty of people in the government seem to feel as though America should be doing something, but are regular people out there clamoring for a resolution? I really don’t see any.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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                says:

                are regular people out there clamoring for a resolution? I really don’t see any.

                Exactly. The average US voter clearly doesn’t care enough about this to justify spilling American blood. They correctly feel US interests aren’t involved. Europe should be doing more considering the refugee crisis but it lacks both the stomach and means for a war (and this war would be a multi-factional tar-baby mess).

                However, we can’t back Assad, that would damage our brand far too much with far too many people. Ergo pulling out is the right call. Having said that, standing back and letting Assad gas his civilians is fairly heinous, and arguably dangerous.

                On the whole I think Trump blowing stuff up that Assad probably doesn’t care much about was well handled. We could cripple his air force, but that would shift the war and we don’t want that.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                Dark Matter: Having said that, standing back and letting Assad gas his civilians is fairly heinous, and arguably dangerous.

                Maybe I’m about to out myself as a conspiracy theorist but I’m not 100% convinced Assad is behind the attacks or that the videos show what they appear to. The mainstream American press has virtually no presence on the ground, and the videos showing this stuff come from shady, interested groups whose credibility is hard to assess.

                The American media and arguably government let themselves be manipulated by people like this in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. We all know about the Gulf of Tonkin. I’m not saying Assad forces aren’t responsible/chemical attacks didn’t occur but the timing of both incidents has been very convenient (i.e. American interest is waning) and seem to make no strategic sense for the side thats gained the upper hand. My preference is total non-involvement regardless but there’s a burden of evidence I don’t think has been met. At the very least I don’t see why people in the media and government who have been wrong before are so readily believed.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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                says:

                …but the timing of both incidents has been very convenient (i.e. American interest is waning) and seem to make no strategic sense for the side thats gained the upper hand.

                Someone at the US mentioned this is something like his 50th chemical attack. It’s a “For me it was Tuesday” situation.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_chemical_weapons_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War#Reported_chemical_weapons_attacksReport

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                I took a look at that and remain skeptical. Again, I’m not saying I know that there’s been no use of chemical weapons. But how many of those reports are sourced to truly disinterested parties? At a glance I’d say almost none. Belligerents (including the US, UK, and France) have an obvious stake in how the regime is percieved as do loyalist and rebel activist organizations. The fog of war, general ignorance about another country and culture, and the fact that the alleged incidents are highly localized makes it impossible to judge the credibility.

                Given the price of getting it wrong and our lack of legitimate interest in who wins I’m not ready to totally buy the narrative. I think most Americans who claim to know more aren’t being honest with themselves.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
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                says:

                He’s used CW before. He’s denied it before, we did this whole song and dance thing which ended with us “disarming” him of a lot of high tech vile stuff. The stuff that’s used now hits the radar as being easier to make and/or left over.

                These attacks only happen on his enemies, all of whom believe he’s using it. With the benefit of hindsight and years to investigate his previous attacks… all of the years old incidents still look like he did it.

                He built up an infrastructure for this sort of thing before the war and had it when the war started. We know this for a fact because we took away the end products. However “Infrastructure” means people who know how to set up, handle, manufacture, and transport CW.

                After we took away the higher tech stuff what did NOT happen is all these people went out and got chemical engineering jobs in the private sector. They were gov military types operating in the context of an active war. We took some of their toys and tools, but some CW is so easy to make it’s impossible to confiscate.

                It seems fair to blame the guy who benefits from, has the resources to do, and who has a history of doing this. It could be a false flag but if the rebels have the resources to repeatedly chemically attack themselves it’s hard to see why they’d abstain attacking him, and equally hard to see why he wouldn’t be broadcasting it. It’s also hard to see why he does things like deny investigators access to the scene if there wasn’t a chemical attack and/or if he didn’t do it.

                He’s basically denying his CW roughly as well as Israel denies their nukes. Everyone knows, everyone knows that everyone else knows, it’s just a thin legal figleaf.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to InMD
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            says:

            If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians.

            But Putin hacked the election! (repeat in all caps 100 times.)Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Has anyone said we should have zero future dealings with Russia as a result of election interference?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                …Do you want me to find someone who said that?

                If I find someone who said that, then what?

                Is finding someone who said that we should go to war with Russia over this sufficient or is that technically a non-zero future dealing?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                If there exist people who have that line of thinking or even something approaching it, the most productive thing would probably be to ask them what their thoughts are on InMD’s comment here.

                As it stands, you’ve (yet again) responded to something that Person A said here with your own parody of something that Person B said somewhere far away, thereby injection an opinion into this space that no one here actually seems to hold, while acting as if you have no ownership whatsoever over the course of conversation.

                That presumes you want to be productive in your dealings here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Well, then, let me flip the original topic back.

                If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians.

                That’s InMD’s point, correct?

                Something eminently reasonable, right?

                Has *ANYBODY* in power suggested that we ally with Assad and the Russians on this?

                Let’s limit “in power” to be someone in the House, the Senate, or the White House. That’s only about 600 people, right?

                Has this eminently reasonable position been espoused by *ANYBODY* in power?

                After you answer that, consider that we’re bombing Assad and getting close to bombing the Russians.

                That seems upside-down, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                You’re begging some questions here.

                First, for what definition of “this”?

                More importantly, are we certain allying with Russia would end it?

                And, to InMD’s original point, do we want to end it?

                I have no idea what the answers to these questions are. But they all matter in terms of agreeing or not with InMD’s point.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                First, for what definition of “this”?

                Well, let’s look at the original statement.

                If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians.

                My assumption is that “this” refers to the violence and civil war in Syria. The fight against ISIS where we were supporting “moderate rebels” instead of Assad while the Russians were siding with Assad.

                And I assume that the sentence is saying that if we wanted to go back to relative stability that allowed such things as free-ish trade (including tourism), we’d side with the side that is most likely to be able to rule and create that stability.

                I hope that InMD will correct me if I am wrong here.

                More importantly, are we certain allying with Russia would end it?

                What is your threshold here? The same certainty that we are not living in the matrix? I’m not sure that we can achieve that.

                The certainty that Assad, at least, will be able to provide the amount of stability he has provided in the past when compared to the amount of stability provided by “democracy” in neighboring countries such as Libya, Iraq, or Egypt?

                I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that Syria’s “democracy” would end up with similar amounts of stability that Libya, Iraq, and/or Egypt achieved.

                And, to InMD’s original point, do we want to end it?

                I’m not quite sure who “we” is. I’m not quite sure what “it” is (the same thing that “this” refers to?). That said:

                I’m sure that some of us want to end it.
                I’m pretty sure that more of us want it to just end and they don’t really care how so long as they don’t have to do anything.
                I’m also suspicious that there are people who only want it to end if it ends their way and, if it doesn’t end their way, they want it to keep going.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                So, to come back to how we got here…

                MD: If we really wanted to end this we’d ally with Assad and the Russians.

                Jaybird: But Putin hacked the election! (repeat in all caps 100 times.)

                Are there people who would oppose the idea of “ally[ing] with Assad and the Russians” because of their feelings about Russian election meddling? Sure.

                But so what? It doesn’t seem any of those people are here.

                Folks may disagree with what InMD said for lots of reasons, including:
                1. They don’t want to end the fighting.
                2. They don’t want to end the fighting in this particular way.
                3. They do want to end the fighting but don’t think that way will be effective.
                4. They do want to end the fighting and do think this way will work but find it unpalatable because it involves allying with Assad and/or Russia.

                For whatever reason, you’ve chosen to focus on a subset of the folks in group #4 even though, again, none of those folks seem to be here. And you did so in a way that seemed aimed at smearing folks who are concerned about Russian election interference.

                Which makes me think this was nothing but a swipe at liberals couched as something else.

                So, I’ll ask what I always seem to need to ask of you: What was your point in saying that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Are there people who would oppose the idea of “ally[ing] with Assad and the Russians” because of their feelings about Russian election meddling? Sure.

                Oh good! I was worried that that position was still a strawman.

                But so what? It doesn’t seem any of those people are here.

                They might not be *HERE*, but they seem to be advising the people who have power.

                What was your point in saying that?

                To point out that the eminently reasonable positions that we hold here are not held (like, not even *CLOSE*) to being held by the people in power.

                And not just the bad people in power like the Republicans! The good people in power like the Democrats.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Wouldn’t it have just been easier to, ya know, say that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                The problem with kids today is that they see “easy” as a good thing rather than as a red flag.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Cute.

                Because obviously the goal of discourse and discussion ought to be something other than the clear sharing of ideas with which to engage.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                What is your opinion on whether we should ally with the Russians and Assad in Syria, Kazzy?Report

              • Avatar Maribou, Moderator in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                @jaybird @kazzy

                Both of you can be more grown up than this.

                Do that please.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                @jaybird your interpretation of what I said is accurate. My favored position is stay out of the conflict. But if the goal of the US is to end the war/violence (the ‘it’ I was referring to) the best way to do that would be to side with the least bad entity that is capable of both winning and restoring/maintaining stability post war. My opinion is that the Baathist government supported by Russia is that actor. Saudi/Gulf backed extremist militias, who we are effectively supporting are not, nor are the Kurds. It remains unclear that there is now or ever were ‘moderate rebels.’

                On the other hand, if our goal is to sew chaos on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Israel in order to weaken Iran’s regional ally, to some degree at the expense of our wayward NATO friends in Istanbul, the current policy might sort of make sense. But as Dark Matter said above, thats assuming the existence of a goal or strategy at all, and maybe there just isn’t one.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                On the other hand, if our goal is to sew chaos on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Israel in order to weaken Iran’s regional ally, to some degree at the expense of our wayward NATO friends in Istanbul, the current policy might sort of make sense.

                Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                as Dark Matter said above, that’s assuming the existence of a goal or strategy at all, and maybe there just isn’t one.

                I don’t think it’s possible for us to even have a “strategy” or “goal” in this situation. We’re nowhere close to figuring out what to do about Turkey vs. The Kurds, and that’s just a three person interaction.

                There are dozens of groups with conflicting goals, changing their alliances and actions daily. Most of them are pretty “evil” by our standards and all of them serve narrow interests. The few we could (un?)realistically believe we could ally with are often brutal enemies to each other.

                We’re looking for a popular moderate who, after taking over, wouldn’t use the power of the state to repress their minorities and/or political enemies and who would obey the rules of the war in the process of taking over. There is no such group, and there basically can’t be.

                If this were important we’d send enough troops to take over ourselves and then stay there for the next 50-75 years (i.e. Japan, Germany) doing nation building and getting them out of the habit of killing each other and into the habit of sharing power.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    Pace Will Truman, I’m not entirely convinced that Mattis is doing good here. He *may* be doing the least bad thing, but that still means an appendix in this edition of Dereliction of Duty.

    My read is that, at best, Mattis’s first priority to to protect the insitution of the military. He’d rather do nothing, but Trump won’t accept doing nothing, so he’s doing something. This something, however, is nothing that commits the military to medium or long term risk – that is, as an institution.

    Getting bogged down in Syria messes up the recapitization and readiness restoration – and a focus on ‘great power’ conflict that most military leaders of his generation have wanted since the 2nd half of the Bush administration.

    The problem is that we do have people in Iraq and Syria, (probably) fighting the last war, because without concrete political guidance, that’s all they know how to do. And we’re continuing to use SOF in an unsustainable manner. And both of those are on Mattis.Report

  7. fillyjonk fillyjonk
    Ignored
    says:

    On the one hand: I think al-Assad seized power *the year I was born* (and I’m old, yo), so he can’t hang on forever. (Wait, no, I guess that was his dad? So we’ve got two generations there, which makes it even stickier and less likely to come out well)

    On the other hand: I fear what might replace him.

    I don’t see a good outcome to this. Certainly not for the Syrian people. I don’t even know what to hope for in the situation because “reasonable government that doesn’t kill its people or others” seems unlikely there.Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    By the way, I like the increase in topical off the cuff linkage posts lately.Report

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