Thursday, August 29, 2013

Get Syrious

I honestly have no idea what the hell is going on in the heads of the Very Serious People running my country with regard to this Syrian chemical attack.

First, let's start by assuming that Assad's guys did pull this off and slimed their own civvies.

Yeah, that pretty much sucks. Not exactly Final Solution or Armenian Genocide sucks, but up there on the scale of suckage somewhere.


My country has been happy to ignore this sort of nasty suckage when it wants to. What's magical about this?

Well, it's chemicals.

Now believe it or not, I actually buy that there's an argument that We the People have a national interest in ass-kicking people who throw chemical weapons around.

I don't AGREE with the argument, but I'll agree that there IS one.

To wit: We're the 800-pound gorilla of conventional war. If nothing else, Gulf Wars II and III convinced pretty much every other national leader with a functioning hindbrain that taking on Uncle Sugar in a conventional donnybrook was just stupid. You would get creamed. Period.

But bugs and gas (nukes, too, but those are ridiculously hard to get hold of or make) are great levelers. They're the sleeper hold of warfare. Comprehensively slime U.S. troops and you go a long way to reducing their combat efficiency to the level of just any other gomers.
(Now, obviously, the problem with this is that most Second and Third World troops are WORSE at operating in a CBR battlefield than US forces, but, whatever, if you're Assad you know your guys are just shit on toast anyway, right?)
The U.S. foreign policy (and military policy, since our foreign policy has become very militarized...) is to brook no peer foe. You try and compete with Sammie's Arsenal of Democracy? Here's some incoming for you, Tojo!

U.S. policy, as it currently stands, cannot accept the possibility of some crappy little ruler of some crappy little country trying to use chemical weapons to level the military playing field.

So clearly the U.S. doesn't want to encourage ANYBODY to think that way. So fuck Geneva and international law; it's in the U.S.'s best interest to remind anyone who even thinks of using chemicals that the result will be a massive ass-whupping of the most medieval sort. Peer through the fog of humanitarian bullshit (and that's not to say that some of the speakers don't ACTUALLY want to punish Assad for sliming his own people, assuming that his guys in fact did and in fact did it deliberately, something I consider still speculative at best...) and you'll find there's a hard core of naked self-interest here.

That's fine. Kinda shitty, but that's what nations are supposed to do; suss out their "interests" and act on them.

Again - that self-interest proceeds from the notion that the U.S. defense policy HAS to be based on bitchslapping everyone who even looks capable of cocking a snook at us.

I don't agree that this is a smart defense policy.

But it appears to be the one currently accepted in D.C. So I understand that the "leaders" there see the situation above in just the fashion I've described it. And, therefore, see a burning need to use force to "punish" the reckless foreign leader that crosses the line into chemical war.

BUT...again, here's my problem with this situation; the notion that punitive force is a "deterrent" or a "punishment" in this case is laughable.

Assad is playing the Game of Thrones in Syria; he wins or he dies. And he is, if not losing, at least not winning. So at this point he has little to lose risking American "punishment". He knows that the Yankees have no love for his enemies, and that they cannot do more than give him a love-tap for fear that his chaotic mess of rebel foes (who make Libya's TNC look like the Athenian civic improvement society, from what I can tell...) will up and take over.

Plus, frankly, for the U.S. to do this while ignoring all the other vile crap we've either encouraged (or at least ignored) in "friendly" states or places we didn't care about, from Saddam's sliming the Iranians back in Gulf War I to Rwandan genocide, to "yellow rain", to the Egyptian coup...well, if you're a person sitting in darkness it sure looks less like "justice" and more like the strong doing what they can...
I find it interesting that the British lawmakers aren't playing. They got into the clown car back in '03, and they've seen where this idiot carnival ride ends.
Put all of this together - the sorry record of the U.S. on this sort of "humanitarian" beatdown, the actual win-or-die facts in Syria, the huge mass of "unknown unknowns" surrounding what happens when the U.S. makes parts of Syria go boom - and it damn sure looks like a mug's game to me.

The only reason to do this seems to be so the Good People can say "We did something."

But "something" isn't always the sensible or useful thing to do. The old rule of medicine is Primum non nocere - "First, do no harm" - meaning that if you can't do good, actual good, foreseeable good, than the next best thing is to do nothing if doing "something" might do harm.

Frankly I see no reason why blowing the shit out of some barracks and ministries in Baghdad will do good, or nothing, instead of harm.

The sad and sorry part about this is that the U.S. has blood and treasure to piss away on this nonsense. We will drop a scattering of ordnance on Syria like Lady Bountiful's largesse and walk away whistling. There really isn't a downside to beating down these poor bastards a little further. We'll probably end up doing it and walking away whistling. A couple more dead camel-jockeys. Oh, well.

Except within ourselves, where we go a little further down the road to Iron Rome.

A little smaller, a little meaner, a little stupider. A little more willing to accept idiotic things, brutal things, pointless things, violent and secret things, evils, small and great, done with neither our assent nor our demur but instead with our bovine indifference. We stare at the television screen showing us the deaths and horrors of others as if they were a play, or as if it were a joke, or a sport, like bored children throwing stones at animals.

But as Plutarch says; the boys throw stones at the frogs for sport but the frogs die in earnest.

It seems that someone somewhere in Syria will die soon at the hand of my nation. The death, it seems to me, is unlikely to do anything but add another mite of misery to that miserable place.

And I have absolutely, positively, utterly no fucking idea what to do, or say, about that.

I am as clueless as any Senator or cabinet officer, and ten thousand times more powerless.


Ael said...

I agree that the fundamental problem is that the USA spends way too much money of "defense".

If the armed forces were only 25% of their current size there would be a lot more institutional pushback against military adventures like the looming one in Syria.

Leon said...

Sadly Canada "reluctantly" just jumped onboard the 'bomb Syria' boat. Again, not sure what we think we'll accomplish with this.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

It is odd how much America can ignore when she wants to do so. The Kurds being gassed just as a 'for instance'....tho' Bush rather belatedly did use that as additional proof that Saddam was a reallllly bad guy.

Here's a thought, if they want to slap the son of a bitch presumed to have done this? Don't we have world courts for trying people who treat people this way? He can be tried in absentia if necessary...and grabbed the next time he sets foot out of his self-fouled shit hole of a nation.

The kind of stuff we are talking about doing now only kills MORE people possibly just as innocent as those already dead. Oh, and spends lots more money the government clearly needs to be spending on other things. Oh, wait....couldn't be this is all a scam to give the merchants of war yet MORE taxpayer dollars, right?

My nightmare? We try this "humanitarian hero" shit on for size from one of our ships. What if, just what if by gosh and by golly, Assad lobs a freaking SCUD missile full of gassy goo BACK and hits said ship? Are they all suited up for the 'just in case'? Cause if not? Well, then, there would be screams for a real ass-kicking, wouldn't there?

And hey, we don't love either side in Syria. That whole "change from outside" think we tried in Iraq AND in Afghanistan isn't going to play any better in a third act of Sandbox Hell.

FDChief said...

Based on the comments from various US government sources today it appears that SOME sort of attack will occur some time in the immediate future.

I want to be angry about this but, frankly, my reaction is more a sort of frustrated irritation.

This is unlikely to do MUCH harm - other than to the couple of dozens to hundred or so poor Syrian snuffies that will get blown to bloody rags. I honestly doubt that any US troop will suffer anything more than a lost night's sleep, Labrys. And it's hard to see how this can poison the Middle Eastern well any more than it already is.

But it's unlikely to do any "good", either, and that's just...irking.

FDChief said...

Ael: Well, I think it would depend a lot on how that smaller budget was spent.

A much smaller Navy and Air Force, yes. Without the long-range strike capability we'd not be able to do this sort of thing.

Still, Great Powers have always seemed to have the ability to find the men, the ships, and the money, too, when it comes time to do something that they believe is crucial to their "national interest". But it's also kind of surprising how often that "national interest" is compounded of fear, ambition, inaccurate information, wild speculation, lust for power and wealth, and the pure heady infatuation with the ability to do something because you can.

Or even if you can't - think of Mussolini's record as an imperialist.

FDChief said...

Leon: Well, I think that your boys in Ottawa want to keep playing with the Big Boys. Maybe they'll send a RCN corvette or something to steam back and forth off the Levantine coast...

Ael said...

I think we tried that, and then we broke the boats.