Saturday, September 7, 2013

Syria, Revisited

I wrote my thoughts about action in Syria last week, and I wanted to add a bit to that.  Quite honestly, I'm flummoxed by how badly the administration seems to want this.  It seems the message changes every couple of days, they keep trying to say different things in order try to get the public on board.   So much of the media, even NPR, is coming off as pro-war.  But there are some serious issues.

The president and his supporters say we aren't going to war with Syria, we are performing limited strikes with no boots on the ground.  You know, like Japan did to us at Pearl Harbor.  Or Al Qaeda  did on 9-11.  Oh, wait.  We considered both of those acts of war and launched military strikes against the offenders, killing hundreds of thousands of people in response.  Why would we expect any less from Syria?  Because they are weaker than us?  Bombing buildings and killing people in a foreign country is likely to be considered an act of war and get a response.  It puts US citizens at risk.  And, even the US State Department says "We continue to believe that there's no military solution here that's good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution".

The entire stated motivation is Syria has broken "International Norms".  Not international laws, international norms, as mentioned in the many speeches given by Obama and Kerry.  Because "American credibility is at stake".  Those are terrible and unfounded reasons to drop bombs in yet another country.

What will happen during our limited strikes?  Tens of thousands of Syrians will die, many of those civilians.  What types of civilians?  People who work at airports and factories.  Scientists who work at any place that could create chemical weapons (which is most places).  Bureaucrats.  People who work at banks.  Basically, if you lived in Syria now, you and your neighbors would be at risk of being killed by US bombs and missiles.

Why is the US inflated the number of dead in the supposed chemical weapon attack?  One of the things all the media stories is the number used by the US (1,400 plus killed including 400 children) is not a confirmed number.  Nor is it the number arrived at by other sources, including the UN, France at 281 dead or even the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who only came up with 500.  More recently, Russia has released a report showing evidence the chemical attack was carried out by one of the rebel groups.  I'm not saying the Russian government is more trustworthy than the US government, but I wouldn't be surprised if either fabricated data.

What is the end goal?  We've been told we aren't seeking regime change.  How will destroying buildings, infrastructure and killing people help?  Already Assad has moved military forces to places like universities and hospitals.  Is the plan to bomb those?  Who are the people who will be killed anyway? 

John Kerry said there are 70-100k freedom fighters in Syria.  The country has a population of 22.5 million.  That means that 95% of the population hasn't actively joined the rebellion.   These are the people who will die in US strikes.  The low number of rebels isn't surprising.   Some historians suggest only 3% of the US population was actively involved in our war of independence.  Imagine if a rebellion happened in the US- would you join?  Most people wouldn't.  They'd continue on with their daily lives, hoping they don't get caught in the crossfire.  Some of those people live in towns targeted by government troops.  Some of those people live in towns targeted by rebel troops.  It's rough to live on the battle line, a hell most people can't imagine.

US strikes will put many more areas at risk.  The US is going to hit areas that the rebels can't.  People who live in relative safety now, the vast majority of the country, will suddenly be in the blast range of US attacks.  That's awful.  In seeking to punish Assad and his decision makers, civilians who chose to not join the rebellion are going to be killed.  I can't think of how that will achieve justice.  It's just more death.

The scope has already creeped.  First it was a shot across the bow.  Then surgical strikes.  Then 90 days of bombings.  Even now the scope of the targets is increasing.  It seems like the administration just needs the permission to get started, and then they will expand the scope to whatever their goal is.  You know, that goal that hasn't been adequately explained.

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