Russia Derangement Syndrome: Syria Edition
by David Archibald
6 August 2018
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So it has been with US involvement in Syria. To provide a context to that involvement, let’s start part way through the story with the self-immolation of a Tunisian vegetable vendor on December 17, 2011, driven to despair by harassment from petty officials. That spark set off the Arab Spring.
A number of Arab regimes changed; some remained resilient. That wasn’t good enough for David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy, the then leaders of the UK and France respectively. Their armed forces starting bombing the Libyans loyal to Colonel Gaddafi, which is a pity because Colonel Gaddafi had got religion from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That invasion didn’t find the nuclear weapons program that was promised but Colonel Gaddafi closed down his nuclear weapons program that nobody had been aware of. The lesson that the world’s dictators learnt from the Cameron and Sarkozy adventure is that you don’t give up your nuclear weapons, so the effect of the Iraq invasion was completely undone.
In Syria the Assad regime lost control of parts of the country to dominantly Sunni militias, some more militant than others. The most militant of all was ISIS, which swept into Iraq from their Syrian base. ISIS had a predilection for beheading and nobody was spared, even toddlers. Their coreligionists were not much better, and the group formerly known as Al Nusra had to have a rebranding in 2016 after one of its foot soldiers was videoed beheading an eleven year old boy on the tailgate of a pickup truck. The rebranding was necessary because otherwise continued funding by the CIA would be problematic.
The Obama regime had been reticent to get involved in Syria; the US had already come to the rescue of Cameron and Szarkozy in Libya with logistic support because those two had bitten off more than they could chew. The beheading videos created a clamour to get involved though and destroy the evil ISIS. So a bit like Pontious Pilate, Obama reluctantly assented to the use of kinetic force in Syria. Initially some good was done in helping the Kurds but mission drift set in and the exercise morphed into attacking the Assad regime.
Which was a big mistake. It is wrong to thing of people in the Middle East as either good or bad — the correct categories are bad, worse, and yet worse. ISIS was the worst of the worst. Assad is following in the footsteps of his father, trying to hold the country together as best he can. In fact the current death and destruction in Syria had a prequel in 1982 when the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take over the city of Hama. Assad’s father ordered the destruction of the city by artillery fire. The death toll from that was estimated to be in the range of 10,000 to 40,000. The Saudis have been doing similar to some Shia-dominated towns in Saudi Arabia in the last year, but nobody is concerned about that.
It is morally wrong to attempt to depose Assad because what would replace him would be worse — it would be head-choppers. And it would really be a case of women and minorities being the worst affected; the Christians would get wiped out, as they were in Iraq as a consequence of the 2003 invasion. So why has the US been spilling blood and squandering treasure in support of the baddies in this conflict? If they were successful in deposing Assad, Syria would immediately turn into another haven for terrorists attacking the West, more so than it has ever been.
The explanation is provided in a still from this video at 1:56 of weapons recently surrendered by head-choppers in southern Syria:
The sign was on the outside of a box containing a 130 mm artillery round. It is in English, so it was presumably provided by the CIA. The round was produced in eastern Europe because countries there still make ammunition for Soviet-era weapons. The manufacturer could have been a company like Arsenal in Bulgaria.
The CIA’s motivation is explained by the words “Ex Warshaw (sic) Pact Country”. The CIA thinks that in attacking Assad they could defeat Russia by proxy, because Russia had decided in 2015 to be loyal to a long term client. The CIA, in Syria, has been fighting a war that was won 28 years ago when the Soviet Union fell apart. The CIA’s mindless battle with its own demons has prolonged the Syrian conflict and caused unnecessary death and destruction. Shame on the CIA!
If what the CIA did was wrong, and doubly wrong because Russia’s client triumphed, then what is the right thing to do? It is important to get this right, so to provide context we will start at the beginning of the story. One of the United States’ first foreign policy initiatives was to destroy the Barbary Pirates on the North African coast in a war from 1801 to 1805. These pirates had been conducting slave raids as far north as Iceland. As usual the Europeans had been too indolent to do anything about the problem. US involvement was prompted by the ransoming of US citizens. Many years passed before the US was back to bomb Libya in 1986. This is the endless treadmill that the civilised world is on: Libyans and others like them disturb the peace of the world and we return to kill those who would impose their will on others, because the others include us. It is a recurrent police action and no more than that is needed; it is pointless to stay around to do some nation-building — the mistake in Afghanistan.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.