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Air Strikes In Syria

US attack on Syria is meant to punish it for a chemical attack – Vox

The United States, along with with Britain and France, just bombed Syria. It’s the second time the US has waded into the country’s seven-year conflict in response to a chemical weapons attack.

The allies hit three targets — including in the capital of Damascus — all related to Syria’s chemical program with around 100 missiles: a research center, a storage facility, an equipment facility and command post. Damascus residents said they awoke to explosions. The strikes reportedly came from coalition cruise-missile-equipped ships and warplanes.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” President Donald Trump said from the White House on Friday night.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the scale of the attacks was larger than the one last year, which only struck one Syrian airbase. “This time with our allies, we have struck harder,” Mattis said. “Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack.”

“Right now, this is a one-time shot,” Mattis added, “designed to set back the Syrian war machine’s ability to produce chemical weapons.” Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said they tried not to hit Russian troops stationed in Syria, which might have ignited a larger conflict.


Syria air strikes: UK confident of successful mission, says PM – BBC News

Speaking in Downing Street, Mrs May said the “limited and targeted strikes” had degraded Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons.

“This collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons,” she said.

Drawing a link with the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Mrs May added: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

She also said she would make a statement to Parliament on Monday and give MPs a chance to ask questions.

Mr Corbyn said MPs should have been consulted before the strike and called on Mrs May to “publish in full the legal justification and basis for” the action.

The Labour leader added that weapons inspectors were on their way to verify the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.


Syria bombing – latest updates: Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capability ‘set back for years’ by air strikes, Pentagon says | The Independent

Russia and Syria have claimed most of the missiles, numbering about 110, were intercepted, while the UK has said the strikes were “highly successful” and the Pentagon said Syrian defences had “no effect” on the operation.

Mr Assad, backed also by Iran, said on Saturday the bombings would increase his country’s resolve to “fight and crush terrorism”. {…}

“This simply shows their desperation to pin the blame on anyone but their client: the [President Bashar] Assad regime

It comes as Russia and the United States traded fresh blows during the latest round of talks at the UN Security Council and amid warnings that the world is at risk of “full-blown military escalation”.

The State Department said the United States has proof at “a very high level of confidence” that the Syrian government of Mr Assad carried out the attack but is still working to identify the mix of chemicals used.

“Syria is responsible. We are all in agreement,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.


{See the thread}


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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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65 thoughts on “Air Strikes In Syria

  1. 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.

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        • 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.

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    • 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.

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        • 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!”

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            • 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.

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              • “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.”

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                • 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.

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        • 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”

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          • 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.

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            • 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.

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              • 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.

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                • 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.

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                • 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.)

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                  • 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.

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    • 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.

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  2. 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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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        • 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…)

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  3. 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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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?)

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        • (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.

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            • …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.

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  4. 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?

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  5. 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.

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        • 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.

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          • 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.

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            • 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.

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              • 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.

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                • 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.

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                    • 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.

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                      • 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.

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              • …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?

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                • 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.

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                  • 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?

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                    • 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.

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                      • 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.

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                        • 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?

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                        • 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.

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                          • 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.

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                          • 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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.

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