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So, what do we think about Syria?

Some questions:

Was there a chemical attack?

If so, who was the perpetrator?

More to the point, do we care? Yes, I know there is a treaty and all that but is chemicalling someone so much worse than shooting them? And is it worth fighting a war over?

76 comments to So, what do we think about Syria?

  • Was there a chemical attack? If so, who was the perpetrator?

    Yes and the Assad government as they already have form.

    More to the point, do we care? Yes, I know there is a treaty and all that but is chemicalling someone so much worse than shooting them? And is it worth fighting a war over?

    Not convinced lobbing a few cruise missiles will make much difference, so it is not worth doing that unless ‘we’ really do plan on going to war with Assad properly (which is not on the cards), and therefore shooting at Russian forces in and near Syria. Now frankly I *do* support some kind of overt & unambiguous lethal action against the Russian state by Britain, but not because of anything that happened in Syria but rather because of an act of war committed in Salisbury… in Britain.

  • Mr Ed

    From the BBC, I saw some ‘photogenic’ youngsters having their eyes daubed after a chemical attack, yet there was some contention that it was a nerve agent attack, where daubing eyes is unlikely to be the response. The BBC’s coverage looked like a mawkish set-up job, and whilst Assad’s Ba’athists are up there with the most vile socialists around (think of the worst elements of the 1940s Labour Party unleashed with fanatical anti-Semitism thrown in), and they have form, it all seems rather odd.

    As I see it, the possibilities are (not necessarily exclusive).

    1. Assad did it in a ‘Yes We Can’ moment. He doesn’t care to waste any more time, or has some stocks to use up, the game is almost up, but why waste more troops/ammo in closing street fights with suicidal enemies? He thinks that a few cruise missiles will give him and the Russians/Iranians a chance to test their air defences against a few salvos of cruise missiles as a worst-case scenario.

    2. The rebels staged an attack to make Assad look bad and get Western help.

    However, I don’t see enough evidence (but then I wouldn’t would I?) to justify an attack on Syria.

    Even if there was a basis for attacking Syria, it is not presently a threat to us. The last menace to the UK from that area was the other Ba’athist Saddam with his theoretical scope for dumping a Scud on the UK’s SBAs in Cyprus, and the odd alleged Thallium poisoning of Iraqi exiles in London.

    If you are going to waste all your cruise missiles on Syria, do you have an end-game? Don’t wound the beast either destroy it utterly or not at all.

    Syria is the politically a very nasty place, there is no obvious good side or any solution. If Assad falls, the Sunni fanatics prevail and 25% of the population are at risk of elimination and the remainder get a different bunch of murderers. If Assad remains, the Sunni 75% are oppressed under a cross between the Labour Party Max and Hezbollah.

    So I say leave it and keep the cruise missiles for somewhere closer to home.

    At least Putin’s bluff will be called if there is action.

  • Fraser Orr

    Perry de Havilland (London)
    > Yes and the Assad government as they already have form.

    I don’t see that it is obvious that this was Assad. Not that I doubt he has the capability or willingness to do so (so does the opposition) but because it just doesn’t seem in his best interest.

    It seems unlikely that it is a coincidence that two days after President Trump indicates he will be pulling troops out of Syria that this happens — something that pretty much guarantees that US troops will stay. Why on earth would Assad want that?

    I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I suspect a false flag attack here.

  • John B

    Why did it happen in the first place? Because ‘we’ bombed Syria.

    So ‘we’ bombed Syria causing a reaction, the proposed solution to which is to bomb Syria which will cause a reaction, the proposed solution to which is to bomb Syria…. Da capo al fine.

    How about we round up all the Western ‘leaders’ with the fighting talk, give them guns and send them to Syria so they can deal with things first hand and leave the rest of us out of it.

  • Martin

    The biggest supporters of this move to war appear to be a lot of Never Trumpers. Same as it was with last year’s Syria airstrike. Sad really, Donald has surrendered to the Washington foreign policy blob.

  • Why did it happen in the first place?

    Because the Assad dynasty are psychotic Ba’athist tyrants? The root of the civil war in Syria lies in Syria.

  • I don’t see that it is obvious that this was Assad.

    I think it strains credulity to think otherwise. This is what Bellingcat have so far.

    Not that I doubt he has the capability or willingness to do so (so does the opposition) but because it just doesn’t seem in his best interest.

    If Assad believes the international response will be weak, then he may well conclude using chemical weapons is indeed in his interests. It is hard to know what the world looks like from inside Assad’s bunker and what the Russian government are advising him to do, the same Russian government who bizarrely concluded it was in their national interests to use chemical weapons against a Russian double agent in Salisbury in Britain.

  • Martin

    So we heard that some Syrians killed some other Syrians. So we’re going to kill Syrians to stop Syrians killing Syrians. To boot we might kill some Russians, whether by accident or design. What could possibly go wrong here?

  • Mr Ed

    Because the Assad dynasty are psychotic Ba’athist tyrants?

    Look at Hama in 1982, and the attempted El Al bombing in London in 1986. Pop Assad on fine form.

    But, he doesn’t lead a bunch including liver-munching cannibals, who seem to be the main opposition.

    The politics of Syria is like a drying out pool in the tropics, as the fish are anxious to devour each other even as they gasp for oxygen. The poor old neutrals who just want a life don’t get a look-in.

  • But, he doesn’t lead a bunch including liver-munching cannibals, who seem to be the main opposition.

    Yeah, which is why I’m inclined to see nothing much done. My views haven’t really changed.

  • (1) There’s not enough evidence.
    (2) I can’t see us making a difference.
    (3) Both sides are awful, and I see no reason (whether moral reason, or national self-interest) to prefer the anti-Assad side.

  • staghounds

    All of the Middle East is not worth the bones of one GI from Kansas, or the taxes of a single hotel maid.

  • NickM

    From a cynical Civ-playing perspective… The best option for the “West” is the Syrian pot keepin’ on a bubblin’ until it looks like Mad Max on camels. That is neither moral nor good (for the poor sods in Syria) but is that perhaps Trump’s plan? To surgically weaken Assad just enough to keep the rebels truckin’ into a stalemate?

    The really sad and worrying thing is the way Turkey is going. And that is Putin’s real aim here – fragment NATO. When he can sail into the Med (from Crimea?) straight through the Bosphorus he won’t need Syrian ports. I guess he is coppering his bets because Erdogan’s “reforms” may not last for ever (the ghost of Mustafa Kemel might get him yet). Either way Pooty seems Hell bent on creating a coalition of the dreadful with the Ayatollahs etc.

  • Martin

    The only Syrian allies the Americans have who are reliable are the Kurds. And Kurds are less than 10% of the total population, have poor relations with Turkey to say the least, and many of the fighters are Communists. Assad may be an SOB but it’s hard to get that outraged about his antics when you look at the alternatives in the country. And you can say the same for the entire Middle East region to be honest. Fifty shades of prats.

  • NickM

    staghounds,
    That’s funny because it is true. For the record I wouldn’t include Israel with the Middle East*. I really want to go to Israel. I’m leaving that holiday on the back burner for a while…

    *Where do you think the Intel Core i5 in this laptop was designed.

  • APL

    Patrick Crozier: “Was there a chemical attack?”

    We don’t know.

    If so, who was the perpetrator?

    We don’t know. But I’d ask, is it likely that Assad would, just as he’s winning his five year long anti insurgency campaign, provoke the only country that could utterly destroy him? It seems unlikely to me. But it also seems likely that Assad’s enemies who are about to be obliterated, might be desperate.

    More to the point, do we care?

    I care more about the children, citizens of the United Kingdom, who have been abandoned by the Social care system, frequently vilified by the Police and according to the statistics, disproportionately victimised by 2% of the population

    And is it worth fighting a war over?

    We do not need to be involved in Syria. After all, we’ve got enough chemical hysteria in the UK, and now that the British governments chief scientist at Porton Down has distanced himself from some of Theresa Mays more hysterical outbursts. Hopefully, the chemical hysteria may subside too.

    And of course, it’s a bit of a coincidence that, less than a week after the President of the United States, said he’d like to withdraw US military from Syria, another false flag – whoops, gave myself away there, attack in that blighted country takes place.

  • APL

    NickM: “When he can sail into the Med (from Crimea?) straight through the Bosphorus he won’t need Syrian ports.”

    Then perhaps we ought not to give Gibraltar back to the Spanish.

    NickM: “Either way Pooty seems Hell bent on creating a coalition of the dreadful with the Ayatollahs etc.”

    Up until now, the US has frustrated every initiative at better relations with Russia.

  • I do agree it’s good geopolitics to wreck Russian moves in Syria.

    I remain cynical about anything the British government claims about WMDs and I don’t thing Putin and Trump are friends.

    However, Putin is clearly an old school player of the great game, smacking one of his pawns is a great way to remind him of opportunity costs. Even if Salisbury was just a loyal flunky overstepping the mark, a response is warranted…..

  • Paul Marks

    There have been chemical attacks in Syria – yes there was also one recently.

    Mr Assad does not decide these things – Russia (Putin) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (and their puppets) do.

    We must stand with our ally the United States – however, whatever we do or do not do …. NOTHING GOOD IN SYRIA is to be expected.

  • Up until now, the US has frustrated every initiative at better relations with Russia.

    Good. Why would the UK need any relations with Putin’s Russia, let alone better ones? The best way for the UK government to show how much they want to make nice with Putin would be to frack the living hell out of the UK using the latest tech (which gets cheaper by the year) & do our bit to push oil prices down (something that hurts the Russians, Iranians and Saudis at the same time? Hell, what’s not to like?).

    Fuck Putin.

  • Past performance is a good guide to future results. I believe there was a chemical attack and Assad did it, for the reasons Perry states. If there is a way to find out for sure, or failing that, for somewhat more certainty, I hope whoever has the ability to do so will pursue it. Meanwhile, decisions, as often in war (and in peace), will be made on imperfect knowledge.

    I see advantages, practical, moral and political, to making Assad bear a cost for the attack, and Putin bear a cost for a certain other attack. I see Syria as a good place to do both at small cost to ourselves, with the advantage that when we’ve fired off the yearly budget of cruise missiles and/or spent the paras’ and SAS’ annual training exercise budgets raiding some disavowed Russian ‘mercenaries’ base and/or whatever, then we have an easy exit: we announce that Assad has been “shown the cost” of his actions, since whatever cost is imposed can be claimed to be “sufficient to make the point” (at least until he does it again, but if we are just an addition to US, Israeli and even French fun, he may well think twice).

  • The biggest supporters of this move to war appear to be a lot of Never Trumpers. (Martin, April 12, 2018 at 3:22 pm)

    It is in Trump’s interest to have Putin hurt and hopping mad at him come November. “The MSM say I colluded with Putin – and Obama didn’t. Well look at O’s past and my present with the guy.” If the nevertrumpers want Trump to inflict an obvious punishment on Putin for chemical attacks in Salisbury and Syria – one that contrasts strongly with Obama’s red line that morphed into an excuse for inviting Russia into Syria – are they not defeating themselves? If Trump does something violent in Syria against Putin while also sounding like he’s looking to wrap it up, he’d seem well-positioned electorally to me. (Those who live across the pond by all means comment and/or correct me.)

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    What would be the point of the West going to war with Syria? Is there an endpoint we can all agree on, such as Assad being killed or put in some International War Crimes Tribunal?
    And if we’re thinking geopolitically, can’t we find some way to blow up the building which houses or makes the gas, and humiliate Putin that way?

  • bobby b

    Does it matter in this analysis that it appears that someone has very neatly trapped Trump in a course of action he did not wish to pursue?

    Trump has a lot invested in his “let them stew in their own juices” philosophy towards much of the middle east. He had actually announced our imminent departure from the theater.

    But he also has a lot invested in his criticisms of Obama’s “red line in the sand” failure.

    What a marvelously effective way to trap Trump into remaining in Syria this was! One or two pressurized containers of chlorine gas delivered on the right targets, and suddenly Trump is forced to choose between two of his priorities.

    Would Assad want Trump stuck so? I doubt it. Would Putin? Again, I doubt it.

  • Eric

    If Assad believes the international response will be weak, then he may well conclude using chemical weapons is indeed in his interests. It is hard to know what the world looks like from inside Assad’s bunker and what the Russian government are advising him to do, the same Russian government who bizarrely concluded it was in their national interests to use chemical weapons against a Russian double agent in Salisbury in Britain.

    I understand why Putin would do what he did in the UK – he’s making a point to all would-be Russian defectors, the same way he did with Alexander Litvinenko a few years back. But Assad, with Russian assistance, is already winning his civil war. He may be a killer, but he’s no fool – why put all his gains in jeopardy?

    I can’t shake the feeling we’re being manipulated here. I remember all the wild stories in the run up to the 1991 Gulf War, all of which turned out to be fabrications by the Kuwaitis. The same thing happened when we bombed the Serbs after the Kosovars played Madeleine Albright like a fiddle.

  • RRS

    Perhaps another way to look at this situation:

    “Our” (UK, US & FR) objective has not to do with our having objectives in (or for) Syria and its diverse populations; but to come up with objectives in dealing with the objectives of Russia & Iran in and for a particular “form” of Syria.

    There are some echoes of the roots of the Crimean War.

    So, what are (or should be) our objectives with respect to Russian objectives in its involvements and actions in Syria; and the same for those of Iran? THEN, what actions will forward our objectives (so determined) with the greatest possibilities of success and least likelihood of getting out of control.

  • RRS

    Oh ! I do not mean to disregard the remaining concerns with pockets of ISIS.

  • Marrin

    Yes having a potential nuclear exchange between the two countries with enough nukes to destroy all human life ten times over will do wonders for the midterm campaign! Trump might be the sole survivor in the bunker come November!

  • mike

    Gas pipelines. Quatar wants to build a pipeline through Syria and Turkey to Europe and Iran wants to build one through Syria and under the Med to Europe. The Germans would like to have an alternative source of gas to the Russians, but are worried about ticking off Russia in the meantime. The Russians would like to stop the Quatari pipeline and have the Iranians build theirs. The U.S., U.K. and France have no national interests in Syria whatsoever, but are making the most noise about it. The Israelis have reason to hate whoever wins in Syria, so they effectively have no national interest here.

    So I am tempted to blame Germany, but… I can’t understand why the U.S., U.K. and France are making so much noise.

  • Ian

    The Russian Defence Ministry has been making very vague claims for the past several weeks that the rebels were planning a staged provocation using “poisonous agents”. They of course know that Syrian commanders have been repeatedly using chlorine (excluded from the 2013 agreement on account of its non-offensive utility) and that at some point it would get photographed and filmed in a public way, so presumably wanted to get ahead of the story; but these claims of “false flag” attacks have eagerly been jumped upon by woolly-minded Western commentators keen to show how worldly-wise and cautious they are.

    There are very few crimes that have political ramifications (even fewer on the battlefield) for which the evidence is so clear that the claim of a “false flag” attack cannot be made. Similar claims were made after MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine, and after the Salisbury attack, but you can Google pretty much anything that has been done by Russia or to the USA over the years (e.g., KAL007, Pearl Harbor, JFK) and find people willing to believe they were “false flags” and that in fact Russia is innocent and the USA is guilty. The traffic is almost entirely one way, despite the fact that the Russians always play that card, and despite the fact that they are known to use “false flags” themselves (e.g., Georgia, Crimea) in a manner notably similar to the tactics used by Hitler to gain territory before WWII.

    I expect the hard left reflexively to grope for hypotheses that exculpate Russia. For a variety of reasons including the continued effectiveness of Russian intelligence networks old and new (fracking, anyone?) but also largely due to a sense of commitment to any country acting against “Western imperialism”, these people have (somewhat comically) continued to support Russia even after the collapse of communism. I suppose the habit has just become ingrained, as it’s been going on since the days of Stalin. However, Western anti-statists are increasingly being sucked into the Russian propaganda orbit because of people like Alex Jones, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. In my view, this is entirely due to the dangers of abstract theorizing (often by intelligent people) based on scraps of dubious information and absent practical knowledge and experience of Russian strategy and tactics. But this is not merely a Russian thing: other states like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela use precisely the same tactics, with varied success, to sow doubt and division amongst their enemies.

    In my opinion, this was a chemical attack and it was done by Syria. They and their allies Russia are also using psy-ops against us by peddling false narratives in a desperate attempt to crush what little resolve we have to confront this kind of barbarism. As a wise Buddhist once said, “Control your own mind, or someone else will do it for you.”

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    What do we do about Syria?

    Nothing.

    Not our problem unless we make it so, and to be frank how are we going to put enough boots on the ground to make a large and ‘diverse’ country do what we say? Dropping a few bombs may help one side or the other (and all sides appear to be run by people you wouldn’t like to run anything) but it ultimately makes no difference. I would agree that if it wasn’t a shithole once there are people there determined to make it into one, and I loathe our weak government who has allowed people of extreme and violent views who went to make it shittier back into this country. At least I don’t have to vote for them.

    Whatever we do or say or fund, Syrians and friends are hell-bent on killing each other. Tragic indeed, but best to let them get on with it.

  • Mr Ed

    I suppose that there is a case to be made that ‘doing something’ is important in that it is a way to honour in the breach the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons pour décourager les autres, and with half an eye to stopping any actor in the ME from dropping something on Israel, let that unleash a nuclear response.

    However, even if you accept that, you still need there to be a casus belli or rather an Angriffgrundlage a reason for the action in that you are attacking A for what A has done.

    I still want to know why Belgium isn’t involved and we appear to be, isn’t it about time they made a contribution rather than sat there waiting to be attacked? Or is there some rule that the UK has to carry the burden?

    Plus: What Ian said at 7.32 am.

  • bobby b (April 13, 2018 at 1:10 am) and I (Niall Kilmartin, April 12, 2018 at 10:28 pm) both discuss the US ramifications but we seem to be reaching different conclusions from the same facts. While Bobby, like Martin above, suspects nevertrumper interest in “we must act”, I think action is in Trump’s interest, and the nevertrumpers may defeat themselves.

    Trump can declare his victory conditions, e g.

    – victory is teaching Assad not to use chemical weapons again (or at least making him very aware of the price he’ll pay if he does)

    or

    – victory is removing those Russians Obama brought in (after which Trump will “let the locals stew in their own juice”)

    Certainly with the first of these, and also I think with the second, he has time between now and November to act and then to declare the purpose of his action achieved, and his policy back on course. If he plans to scale down or leave Syria, better to do so on a high.

    If Trump were to declare

    – victory is “remove Assad”

    then he’d need some reason for thinking he had not just accepted the open-ended commitment of the nevertrumpers. It is reported Trump has told the US military to “find a way to win” in Syria. If they do not report back with a strategy to remove Assad this year, will he not instead choose one of the other victory conditions?

    People across the pond are better placed to comment than I. By all means show me any flaws in the above as regards mid-term electioneering or as regards future ability to scale down in Syria.

  • bobby b

    “Syrians and friends are hell-bent on killing each other. Tragic indeed, but best to let them get on with it.”

    You make it sound as if every Syrian and friend are fighting-aged guys with AK’s, screaming with bloodlust at each other, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pictures from the area that show lots of older guys, and women, and tons of kids.

    I don’t know if this changes anything, but I think we need to keep them in mind when we’re deciding. When we just say “let ’em fight it out”, it makes it sound like we’re deciding if a football game will go on as scheduled, and I think the stakes are higher than that.

  • bobby b

    “While Bobby, like Martin above, suspects nevertrumper interest . . . “

    Nope. I suspect the rebel forces whom we’ve so far supported who don’t wish to lose that support. When I mentioned the nevertrumpers in relation to the assassination attempt, I was just bringing up outlandish ideas and making the point that those outlandish ideas had as much evidentiary support at that time as did the “Putin did it” claim. I wasn’t endorsing them.

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    You make it sound as if every Syrian and friend are fighting-aged guys with AK’s, screaming with bloodlust at each other, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pictures from the area that show lots of older guys, and women, and tons of kids.

    I don’t know if this changes anything, but I think we need to keep them in mind when we’re deciding. When we just say “let ’em fight it out”, it makes it sound like we’re deciding if a football game will go on as scheduled, and I think the stakes are higher than that.

    Given that the only thing that the armed political factions in Syria that count probably agree upon is a fanatical hatred of Israel, it is probably better in the long-term for Assad’s regime to remain in that he will always, as someone put it, be ‘holding a tiger by the ears’ in keeping the restive faction of his population who hate his regime under control. If Assad goes, he will most likely be replaced by an Islamist regime right on Israel’s border with a claim to the Golan Heights and land right up to the shores of the Sea of Galilee (as if the niceties matter too much). Apart from that possibly leading to another Syrian occupation of/intervention in Lebanon and them slugging it out with Shia Hizbollah, which is a possible ‘cancelling-out’ scenario, the possibilities for those who simply want to live their lives in peace in Syria are grim.

    But these are ‘their’ fanatics and their problem, they are host to the vicious parasites. Like the German population in 1939-1945, those who are unarmed, in a brutal way, simply don’t count, as they are to no effect in the horrible scheme of things.

    Ideally, all the fanatics would watch a few David Wood and Hayek videos and change their minds, and let everyone live in peace and trade. But the predominant ideologies are Ba’athist socialist thuggery and, running a poor second, Islamism; the non-ideological simply don’t get a look in for now, they are fodder for the rest. The question is, how could that change?

    And if there is no realistic prospect of that situation changing for the better, what else is there to do but avoid the place?

  • bob sykes

    It does not matter whether a chemical attack occurred or who did it. We, the US and other NATO countries, are in Syria illegally. We have committed a war crime according to international law, in exactly the same sense that Hitler committed a war crime invading Poland.

    And our invasion has been for nought. Assad has won. Iran has its Shia corridor to the Mediterranean. And Russia is once again a power in the Middle East.

    The coming American/French/British attack on the Syrian government will not change any of that, but it has the potential to spread the war dramatically. If Russian troops were to be killed, Russia would find it necessary to kill American, French and British troops, all of whom are conveniently stationed in Syria and easily accessible. Then what?

    The R2P nonsense, first spewed by the Clinton administration, has led to the wide spread chaos now reigning in the Middle East and Africa. We did that. And we are proud of it. NATO is an alliance that has earned its comeupance. And people everywhere in the world will cheer.

  • Surellin

    This seems like a situation made to order for a strategy introduced to me by a friend, and which in his honor I call “The Sergeant’s Solution” – arm all sides and seal the borders.

  • It does not matter whether a chemical attack occurred or who did it. We, the US and other NATO countries, are in Syria illegally. (bob sykes (April 13, 2018 at 11:58 am)

    Waging chemical warfare is illegal under current international law. If international law floats your boat, then it does matter whether a chemical warfare attack occurred and who did it.

    Various PC types regard the presence of ‘white, western’ power in the US, let alone Syria, as a crime in international law, but I do not agree with them.

    If Russian troops were to be killed, Russia would find it necessary to kill American, French and British troops

    Or necessary to back off from a position that Obama’s weakness offered to them but which they now find to be over-extended. That is the strategic calculation.

  • NickM

    Mr Ed,
    “And if there is no realistic prospect of that situation changing for the better, what else is there to do but avoid the place?”

    Exactly how I felt (and feel) about Leeds. I could tell tales about the underclass of LS7 where I lived on Meanwood Rd (yeah, I know). It was like Dickens free-basing. I knew a fellow student who was assaulted by a toddler on a trike. “He’s only having fun!” said the bennies milch-slag who had presumably whelped this little Damian. I saw my fellow student’s ankles afterwards.

    One Friday night I’d been working late in the School of Maths at Leeds University. I was re-jigging some Unix scripts and saw it was good so repaired to the Packhorse pub on Woodhouse Lane because that’s where Leeds University School of Maths met of a Friday (many years before that so did Tolkien’s “Vikings”!) and still had time for a pint. I left shortly after because I was hungry and tired so the obvious solution was a pizza and bed. So I get my pizza and amble home. I had opened the box on the way and had the box in my left and was eating the slice (it was a meat feast) when I was surged from behind by urchins who stole the rest of my pizza and made off giggling like goblins into the maze of ’60s shitholes known as “Little London”.

    This post might seem like an excursion but it isn’t. At the time (1999) I had been a kinda centrist consensus type but this didn’t so much shift me to the “Conservative” side as to more the, “PBR Streetgang, this is Almighty…” side.

    Ultimately, that is what it comes down to. From a pizza to a poisoning to the wanktics of Putin it is not “deprivation” (so beloved of the left that they want more!) to “depravity” that needs to be “tackled” but some places… They are so far beyond redemption that we either nuke ’em or just get the fuck out. There is no middle path. “Nation building” doesn’t work. It worked to rebuild Europe post ’45 but there was a deep desire in those countries to not be shitholes.

    Back to Leeds 7. I told you, rather coyly, about a “fellow student”. Right now she is upstairs mooching through clothes in our house in Cheshire. This October will be our twelfth wedding anniversary.

    In microcosm I think that says a lot and I think it can be projected to the macrocosm. At a deep level I think that is how morality is. Moreover I think it is how it works. Morality has to be built (like Lego) from the little bits. You can’t falsely overdrive it with “social programs” (or JDAMs) because people either want it or they don’t.

    I think the Kurds might but they are (not for the first time) stuck in the middle.

  • Fred Z

    Quite a long debate about asshole murdering liars being themselves.

    Derbyshire Doctrine: ignore them until they step on our toes then kill 1000 times as many of them as they did of us and destroy a kazillion BongoBongo Dollars worth of their property. Keep the killing and destruction as focused as possible on their “leaders” but don’t worry if a bit goes astray.

    If all they did was steal our property, kill a thousand of them anyway on general principles and pour ecourager les autres.

    Sippenhaft.

  • So we go in and kill everyone on both sides?

  • Ian

    It would certainly not be a bad thing if Putin were handed an unequivocable battlefield defeat, such as being forced to retreat from Khmeimim.

  • APL

    PdH: “Why would the UK need any relations with Putin’s Russia, let alone better ones?”

    Why not? Russia is a huge land area with remarkable natural resources. Putin will not live forever. We, the UK could be positioning ourselves for a healthy trade with Russia post Putin. Frankly, you seem to be unduly emotional about Putin, who is one man in a country of one hundred and forty million.

    You have a emotional dislike of Putin, but practically lick to boots of Xi Jinping. It’s odd, because neither leader has much love of a free open society. And I’d suggest that Xi is more of a dictator – Hell, he’s still leader of the Chinese Communist party – China is not free, China is not open, China is still Communist. But for your own reasons you prefer China to Russia – Frankly you can’t get a cigarette paper between the two dictators.

    PdH: “Fuck Putin.” It’s all emotion with you. That’s something I’d say about Gordon Brown, or Tony Blair, two people who’ve actually helped ruin my country. But Putin, who is a leader of a country we don’t share a border with and our national interests don’t actually conflict in any significant areas.

    Weird.

  • It’s all emotion with you.

    No, it is all history with me and actually knowing about Russian political culture. What comes after Putin will most likely be someone fairly similar, because cultures outlast the people who are products of it. But please, feel free to invest your money in Russia, I would use a good laugh.

    but practically lick to boots of Xi Jinping.

    I do? 😆 I keep getting banned from Chinese English-language forums 😛

  • Laird

    Was there a chemical attack?

    That seems pretty indisputable (although it could depend upon one’s definition of “attack”).

    If so, who was the perpetrator?

    We don’t know, but to me this has all the earmarks of a false flag operation. It would have been utterly pointless, indeed idiotic, for Assad do this. It is the one single action which has the potential for pushing the US back into his conflict when it had already announced that it was pulling out, and when he was winning his civil war. Whatever else you might say about him, Assad is not stupid.

    I remind you that precisely one year ago, shortly after Trump had taken office and he was still talking about pulling back from the middle east, there was another chemical attack in Syria. We bombed an airport in response to that one, but to this day the Pentagon admits (when pressed) that we don’t really know who was responsible. It would not surprise me to learn that it was the CIA, intending to provoke precisely the action that we took. And it would not surprise me if the same were true today. But of course there are plenty of other candidates, none of which is Assad.

    More to the point, do we care?

    No.

    Syria poses no threat to the US, and we have no strategic (or even tactical) interests there. There are no “good guys” in that fight; let’s just stand on the sidelines and watch them kill each other off. That’s the only way we “win” here. Bobby b is concerned that there are women and children there who will be killed along with the actual combatants. Tough. Not my problem. If those combatants actually cared about their families they would find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

    Callous? Cynical? You bet. I’d rather see every one of them die than lose one US soldier or spend one dollar fighting over that worthless country. I’ve been on this planet for 66 years, and for most of them the US has been involved in some conflict in some god-forsaken country where we have no business being. I am utterly sick of it. They can gas all of Syria for all I care. Not my problem.

  • Tarrou

    There was probably a chemical attack, call it 80% probability. 50-50 chance if there was that it was Assad. Just as likely some rebel group did it to induce the foreigners to come fight their war for them. Probability that the west is insufficiently committed to achieve anything of positive consequence in the region – 100%.

  • Ian

    We don’t know, but to me this has all the earmarks of a false flag operation. It would have been utterly pointless, indeed idiotic, for Assad do this.

    So, as long as something’s idiotic, it has “all the earmarks” of a false flag operation? Or possibly, the earmarks of someone thinking it a false flag operation is stupidity? But do continue.

  • APL

    Laird: “That seems pretty indisputable”

    We don’t even know that. Even less do we know who might have perpetrated such an attack.

    Perry posted some videos of someone with a camera phone walking through the building where the attack alledgedly took place. By the way, it’s not as if corpses are difficult to come by in a war zone. As far as I can tell, there were plenty of corpses, some ghoul had gone around and squirted shaving foam into their mouths.

    The idea being that this is the uniform manner people with ‘chemical poisoning’ die. We don’t know what the agent was, we don’t know if it was pure chemical attack ( chlorine ) or a nerve agent, ( Sarin or ricin ). There has been no sober analysis of whatever agent might have been used.

    Yet everyone is gung ho for the obliteration of Assad. – As if Iraq and Libya weren’t sufficiently salutary lessons of what not to do.

    Laird: “That seems pretty indisputable (although it could depend upon one’s definition of “attack”).”

    We don’t actually know anything about this alledged attack. The White Helmets, they are ghouls funded by the West. No different from the Green helmets

    The West has been led around by the nose, in the middle east.

  • APL

    It seems the US has launched over a hundred cruise missiles against the legally constituted Syrian government.

    Well, you have to laugh. The Syrian rebels bought a couple of areosoles of shaving foam, haulled a dozen bodies out of the local mortuary – corpses not scarce in a war zone – and plastered the ‘chemical attack’ all over the internet.

    Cost? ten syrian dinar and an internet connection.

    US response? One hundred cruise missiles @ $ 500,000 each.

    Talk about aysmetrical warfare.

  • Just when I think Teresa May can’t sink lower in my estimation….this happens! It’s almost a gift. Her only gift.

  • APL

    “Perry posted some videos of someone with a camera phone walking through the building where the attack alledgedly took place. ”

    And another thing about those videos. While you don’t get a good view of the photographer, you do catch a few glimpses of his body. From what I can tell, he has taken no precautions against nerve agent, his hands are ungloved, and he is walking around in trainers.

    This is a man who either has no concept of chemical or biological agents, or – knows they aren’t a factor in this case.

    Verdict? Fabricated and presented for gullible Westerners to emote about.

  • It would have been utterly pointless, indeed idiotic, for Assad do this. (Laird, April 14, 2018 at 1:20 am)

    Is it your experience of how western states never do anything pointless and idiotic that causes you to assume that a socialist (well, ba’athist) dictator would not do something pointless and idiotic?

    Gassing his enemies is foolish only if its consequences are counter productive – but they only are because your reasoning is not being followed. Assad’s experience was that the west talks but does not act. Obama taught him that. It was very much in his interest to show his people that that situation still prevailed. At the moment I write, we now know he miscalculated at least in part, but there is nothing surprising in a third world dictator mis-assessing the rapidly-changing moods of the west.

    Whatever else you might say about him, Assad is not stupid.

    I think Theresa May is stupid enough to do pointless and idiotic things, let alone Assad. Your theory seems to require that at least one of them should be stupid. Embrace the healing power of ‘both’.

    Aside: a politician who is not stupid in the sense of having an IQ of 80 can nevertheless do stupid things – can even have an ingrained habit of doing stupid things. Read my “is stupid” above in that light.

  • Jacob

    Tom Sawyer:
    When Sid tries to steal some sugar, only to knock the bowl to the ground, Tom sits, ecstatic, waiting to see Sid get what he deserves. Instead, he gets blamed for the incident and hit again.
    Still, Aunt Polly feels guilty when she hears the truth of the matter, and Tom does his best to play up his emotions, to cry and pity himself. He really does cry and he really is sad, though he likes the feeling.
    “Umf! Well, you didn’t get a lick amiss, I reckon. You been into some owdacious mischief when I wasn’t around, right enough.” (3.22)

    So, bombing Assad is not a “lick amiss”. Neither will it do any good except helping the US get rid of some old (beyond use by date) missiles.

  • Włodek P.

    It seems the US has launched over a hundred cruise missiles against the legally constituted Syrian government.

    I think the attacks are rather pointless but damn, that’s a severe case of state worship! I’m thinking if you were older & there was an internet back in 1943 you’d have wrote

    It seems the US has launched over a hundred air raids against the legally constituted Nazi German government.

    You’re a stooge, I hope at least you’re getting paid & live in St. Petersburg rather than just being gullible.

  • APL

    Wlodek P: “It seems the US has launched over a hundred air raids against the legally constituted Nazi German government.”

    When you have an argument, I’ll give it some thought.

    But actually no, I will answer your silly excuse for a point.

    In 1939, the United Kingdom did go through the accepted procedure of advising Germany it should withdraw from Poland & Czechoslovakia. There was no doubt it was German tanks that had rolled into those countries and there was no doubt who had given the instruction to do so. Germany refused to withdraw and the UK issued a declaration of war in accord with accepted norms.

    The UK did not, like Germany, spring a surprise attack.

    I’m told St. Petersburg is rather an interesting city. But your second juvenile attempt to score a point falls flat on its face. You silly person.

  • NickM

    I have commented here since Adam’s kids were asking for something from Geoffrey the Giraffe (now bankrupt). And why? Lots of reasons but one of them is that whilst I generally agree with Perry and sometimes disagree with him (hey, that’s life, get over it!) but I have never read him argue from emotion.

    As to strikes… We shall see but I agree with Perry that the real issue with Putin is Salisbury which was an act of war. I like Jeremy Corbyn on this. He is an excellent bellwether. Whatever six-form debating society drivel he thinks is almost exactly 180 wrong.

  • Isn’t it amazing how the chemical attack happened pretty much immediately after Trump suggested pulling back from the region?

    It’s as if the Deep State was trying to goad him into getting more deeply involved.

  • JosephS

    Certainly could be surmised….with a reasonable chance of accuracy…that the chemical attack, if such it was, was timed to keep the USA in the field. Quite why UK and France decided to go to the party is still unclear to me. It’s about time we left the ME to it’s own devices. We are no longer a world power, we don’t have much in the way of armed forces, there’s nothing in it for us and we’re broke.

    Let’s just keep out.

  • Laird

    @ Niall: “Assad’s experience was that the west talks but does not act. Obama taught him that.

    But he is dealing with Trump now, not Obama, and his experience is that Trump does act. That lesson cost Assad an airfield only one year ago.

    Far be it from me to assert that politicians never do anything idiotic. But this is so transparently and blatantly foolish that it makes absolutely no sense. It was the one move which could have goaded Trump into reversing course and re-engaging with Syria. Why would Assad do that when he was winning his war? This whole thing stinks.

  • Northern Light

    Certainly could be surmised….with a reasonable chance of accuracy…

    Got anything at all to back that up or is that just a down-the-pub guess?

    there’s nothing in it for us and we’re broke

    Yes I agree there’s nothing in it for us but since when are we broke? 😆

  • Mr Ed

    since when are we broke?

    Since the National Debt became unrepayable. It is now heading up towards £2,000,000,000,000. When I last did the sums, it was £1,712,000,000,000 in £1 coins makng 16,267,800 tonnes, or the mass of 250 of the QE class aircraft carriers, and a bit of ballast.

  • Laird, Assad’s use of chemical weapons against enemies who cannot themselves retaliate in kind may finally, in this case, have proved imprudent, but, by the low standards of dictatorial action, it does not make “absolutely no sense”. Assad is at war. If the Russians were already worrying that Skripal fall-out could see them under pressure in the region, they may have been pressuring him to get it wrapped up. He anyway wants to win, not to be still fighting. There is also the question of habit – using chemical weapons to overcome a hold-up has been normalised in his military machine. In short, he would have been subject to pressures to do it, fighting against whatever understanding he had a week ago of the reasons against doing it.

    There is also the obvious point that recent reports of Trump demanding his generals find a way of wrapping up US involvement in Syria were heard by Assad as well as by the US deep state. Assad may have been stupid enough to read the US MSM and believe them.

    Finally, I ask for the third time (not rhetorically – I do want US commenters to explain if my reasoning is faulty), why is the US deep state eager to show Trump annoying Putin in an area where Obama enabled him? Does this not harm the narrative for November, for Mueller, etc?

  • Dalben

    They have a complete disconnect between whether Trump is actually doing anything good for Russia and whether he “colluded” with Russia. In any case they just want him gone no matter what and any kind of impropriety is good enough. If Russia did him any kind of favor no matter how small and how unreturned that’s still corruption and good enough.

  • bobby b

    Reasons to believe this was done by the rebels:

    – Assad and Putin have almost won this fight. Syria is his again. He’s now just mopping up.

    – Trump announced we were leaving Syria very shortly before this attack.

    – Assad could have killed many more people with conventional bombs than with this gas attack. Gas isn’t used because it is more effective than conventional bombing. It’s used to make a point, to draw attention, to create a new vector of fear. At this point in time, given Trump’s leaving-Syria announcements and Assad’s success, all of these motivations are against Assad’s interests.

    – Witnesses reported hearing a crash overhead and then finding a pressurized container expelling a cloud of gas. Seems fairly low-tech. Chlorine gas is available to non-military actors. I doubt that the actual military use of chlorine gas involves lobbing commercial tanks of the gas through roofs.

    – This attack occurred in an area in which the rebels have enough control such that they could easily have staged the apparent injured and dead. They have done this many times in the past. This is a standard technique in the ME.

    – As a direct and predictable consequence of this attack, Trump will undoubtedly delay leaving Syria, to the rebels’ delight, and in fact has expended over $100,000,000 on a cruise missile attack on some of Assad’s expensive tech facilities, to Assad’s loss.

    – The “rebels” – the people we support – ISIL – are led largely by the Sunni ex-officers of Saddam’s army, who have much experience of their own using gas and chemicals as weapons, as well as a well-documented lack of aversion to doing bad things to anyone if it might help them.

    – A “gas” attack coming on the heels of the Skripol poisoning was guaranteed to raise the amplified ire of the West against Putin, leading to pressure on Trump to respond. As an aside, it’s been reported that the Swiss Spiez Laboratory now says that Skripol wasn’t poisoned by Novichok – a Russian product – but by an agent labeled “BG” – a NATO product. (Reported by RT, so perhaps to be taken with a grain of salt.)
    .

    Reasons to believe this was done by Putin:

    – People really really hate Putin and want him punished for his life of evil.

    – – – – –

    Frankly, I’m beginning to suspect that, if this wasn’t the rebels, it was a plot by PdH to get Putin. Does anyone know if Perry owns a swimming pool with a gas-chlorine sanitizing system?

  • Witnesses reported hearing a crash overhead and then finding a pressurized container expelling a cloud of gas. Seems fairly low-tech.

    Much of what Syria’s airforce does is low tech.

    it was a plot by PdH to get Putin. Does anyone know if Perry owns a swimming pool with a gas-chlorine sanitizing system?

    Nah, I can’t use chlorine in my pool as it is full of sharks with frikkin’ laser beams coming out of their frickin’ heads

  • bobby b

    ” . . . I can’t use chlorine in my pool as it is full of sharks . . . “

    Ha! You fool! I’ve tricked you into revealing your evil delivery system!

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, I do hope that no inflatable rubber sharks were harmed during the making of that movie. *frown*

  • JJM

    As I see it, this looked like a convenient way to send two short messages:

    1. To Assad: “Unlike my predecessor, I don’t just draw lines in the sand. So cut out the chemical stuff.”

    2. To Putin: “Your nuclear sabre-rattling and silly threats ain’t fooling anyone, President Potemkin.”

  • bobby b

    I do respect this guy’s take on things:

    wretchardthecat
    ‏ @wretchardthecat

    Putin refined his hybrid warfare tactics against the training set of Obama/Clinton. I think he is genuinely surprised that his calculations have gone awry. The Western coalition may actually be trying to topple him, which in his view, is beyond the pale.
    2:12 AM – 14 Apr 2018

    Lest anyone celebrate, the Clinton/Obama response offered more predictability and short term safety. They would always retreat. The BIG downside of forcefully hitting back is that it increases the risk of war. That’s the trade-off.

    Putin, to paraphrase a bon mot from WW1, is the “only man who can end the world in an afternoon”. Nothing Trump, May, Macron or Xi can do can change this sobering fact.

    To a much greater degree than at any point since 1989, the outcome of the crisis depends on the your assessment of Putin the man.

    Personally, I think Putin the man is at his core irrational in that, unlike most civilians, he would rather die before submitting to humiliation.

    Putin’s lost the gamble, but he won’t walk away from the table.

    https://twitter.com/wretchardthecat/status/985083253232058369

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    As an aside, it’s been reported that the Swiss Spiez Laboratory now says that Skripol wasn’t poisoned by Novichok – a Russian product – but by an agent labeled “BG” – a NATO product. (Reported by RT, so perhaps to be taken with a grain of salt.)

    That’s not what their Twitter stream is saying, your version is a photographic negative of the reality, and there’s more in German.

    Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD – like Spiez – is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings. #Skipal

  • bobby b

    ” . . . your version is a photographic negative of the reality . . . “

    Well, let’s review, and compare to a “photographic negative.”

    I said that RT said that Spiez said that they had tested residue from the Skripal poisoning, and had detected, not Novichok, but “BZ” (sorry, not the “BG” I called it above.)

    Someone asked Spiez “so you’re saying the previous testers got it wrong?”

    Spiez’s lawyers began fainting and developing nosebleeds as they researched how many ways they may have just defamed all of the professional people involved with the original “Novichok!” announcement.

    Spiez comes out with a new announcement – a very careful new announcement – that while they tested for and found this “BZ”, they were definitely not saying that the first announcement of Novichok was wrong, and that the group who did find Novichok was composed of the true geniuses of chem analysis and fine fellows all and that everyone but everyone knows that they were correct and so there must be both chemicals in the sample.

    So, a differing view of reality. But far from contrary. Very carefully far.

    (Or, RT’s rep is accurate, and it’s BS. Which is why I mentioned RT.)

  • APL

    Bobby_b: Speiz lab had “detected not Novichok but BZ ”

    Even Porton Down, the British government’s best authority were tip toeing away from complete unambiguous support of Theresa May’s assertion that the agent used was definitely Novichok which absolutely certainly originated in Moskow.

    Speiz lab, is one of three labs selected for this type of analysis by the OPCW.

  • Mr Ed

    Even Porton Down, the British government’s best authority were tip toeing away from complete unambiguous support of Theresa May’s assertion that the agent used was definitely Novichok which absolutely certainly originated in Moskow.

    Just the sort of rabbit hole that foolish terriers chase small bunnies down. The Russian line is that you can’t prove that the nerve agent was made in Russia.

    That is not a relevant consideration. No one is accusing Russia of making it, but of using it.

    It might have been manufactured in the USSR, or the Commonwealth of Independent States, there is no way of knowing. Russia is the successor state to the Soviet Union, it got all the nukes (eventually), it is responsible for the Soviet chemical warfare apparatus.

    Porton Down have confirmed the identity of the agent used, the Russians have said that no one can prove that they made it.

    “We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to [the] government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions,” Mr Aitkenhead said.
    “It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is – we identified that it is from this particular family and that it is a military grade, but it is not our job to say where it was manufactured.”

    Admirers of the Murray Rothbard/Jeremy Corbyn line of historical enquiry will no doubt be satisfied that Russia is exonerated by irrelevant considerations.

  • APL

    Mr ED.”there is no way of knowing ”

    Bingo!!

    It’s a chemical that the West can identify. We have analysed samples of it ( how? ) and knowing the chemical composition, can synthesise it too.

    Just because the USSR may have been the first to synthesise the chemical, doesn’t mean, no one else can.

  • Mr Ed

    APL

    Just because the USSR may have been the first to synthesise the chemical, doesn’t mean, no one else can.

    Where does that take us? Is it your case that as a synthetic chemical was used, and any country could synthesise a chemical, therefore any country could have done it? Yes or No.p

    And your point previously was a total irrelevance, which you do not acknowledge, any reason for that?

    I would say ‘And what of the other evidence?’, but I won’t waste any more time on your points.

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