Syria: American Military Intervention?

The number of victims in Syria has topped 8,000 according to independent observers and to the UN. I will become skeptical when an independent organization such as Human Rights Watch tells me otherwise. Here is a rule of thumb: You don’t allow journalists in; you lose the information battle.

In proportion to the size of the Syrian population, it’s like a massacre of 100,000 Americans (approximately). I think we should intervene to stop the on-going massacre. We, Americans, should do it, first because all human beings are our brothers and sisters and, in addition, because we can do it at little risk to ourselves.

We should further attack the Assad regime, make its functioning difficult or impossible because it’s a terrorist organization with much American blood on its hands. It’s never too late to convince others that helping kill Americans is a dangerous endeavor, that it gives rise to a bill you may have to pay at any time. Creating and maintaining such an impression is conducive to peace. It saves lives in the long run, including the lives of our enemies’ subjects. It’s an indirect act of mercy. Nothing excites the fanatics more than the appearance of helplessness. Nothing helps them keep their cool like the spectacle of iron strength.

Finally, the US should also attack the Assad regime because it’s the quickest and the cheapest way to undermine the hostile and aggressive Iranian theocracy right now. It seems clear as I write (3/16/12) that a confrontation is likely in order to stop Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons. It would be an advantage to deprive that country in advance of a friendly base that is also its only outlet to the Mediterranean. Assad’s Syria is that friendly base.

Obviously, I am not heeding here the opinions of that small fraction of the American public that maintains that there is nothing to fear from Iran, nuclear or not, that Iran is developing nuclear power for peaceful purpose only, that even if it has atomic bombs, it won’t use them, that the threats against its neighbors are just bombastic but basically innocent adolescent talk, that the ayatollahs are sweethearts deep down. This proposal also does not address the notion that others’ defensive posture is precisely what excites Iran’s regime bellicosity because that country is “surrounded.”

Now, there is an apparent issue of the legality of such action. It’s convenient to divide the question into two parts: Legality with respect to our traditions. Legality, or rather legitimacy, from an international perspective. I am of the opinion that there is no “international law” because there is no legitimate world law-making body. Treaties between nation-states are a substitute of sort. I begin with the first issue.

In some American libertarian circles and among leftists, there is great concern about “undeclared wars.” Personally, I don’t think the Constitution requires that Congress declare war in exactly those words. It seems to me that stating loudly and clearly that we will do military damage to Assad’s government and to the military forces faithful to him whenever we please so long as the slaughter of civilians continues should satisfy our constitutional requirement. Still, I would prefer that Congress pronounce the words. Yet, I remember that Congress can always de-fund any military action it dislikes or comes to dislike and thus bring it to a halt.

Then, there is presumed to be an international issue. The fact that the victims that need help depend on, that they are subjects of, a specific nation-state, be it Libya yesterday, or the Sudan and Syria today, leaves me indifferent. Nation-states are often historical accidents. Syria isn’t even that. It was created deliberately by the French under a mandate of the defunct and impotent League of Nations, the hapless predecessor to the United Nations.

There is little that is sacred about nation-states in general. There is nothing that is sacred about Syria, in particular. Unlike the US, for example, it is not the result of a compact between reasonable people who are thinking about what they are doing. Since, shortly after 1963 when the Baath Party took over (with the best of intentions), the country has been kept in a state of underdevelopment by a military mafia drawn from a minority religious group. Incidentally, it’s not even completely clear what are the basic beliefs of this minority religious group, the Alawites. They are secret. Some Muslims don’t believe Alawites are even Muslims at all. And the Alawites sure aren’t Christians or Jews. I don’t care myself, one way or the other. I am only speaking to the probable legitimacy of the Alawite mafia around Assad in a part of the world where religion still confers legitimacy (a fact I regret but cannot deny).

It is true that the dictator Assad, has posed as protector of other minorities, including Christian minorities. Two comments about this. First, once the oppressor of all is gone, different groups can arrive at their own less artificial arrangement to live together or not. I can’t bring myself to believe that tyrants are the only possible protection for minorities. And if some groups cannot get along that ‘s still no a reason to countenance massacres, as we are doing now. There would be more peace,worldwide if there were more secessions. Again, nation-states are not sacred and neither are their borders.

My second comment is that if protecting the few is a sufficient justification for remaining in a position to kill the many then, every bloodthirsty tyrant who takes that precaution automatically receives immunity. In 1945, when the gig was up, Hitler could have said sincerely,Listen, guys; you have to leave me alone because I protect the Sorbs.” (Look up “Sorb,” and no, I don’t mean “Serb.”) And then, Adolph would have been safe.

The lack of UN approval for a military intervention, I see as a blessing in disguise. The UN is revealing anew its true essential nature right now: We are asked to believe that a military intervention in Libya would be more legitimate if it had the approval of the gangster Putin’s regime in Russia and of the admittedly successful fascist so -called “People’s,” so-called “Republic “ of China. If only ridicule could kill!

The truth is that the UN is not a world government, that it is neither a world executive nor a world parliament. Even less is it a world supreme court. The UN is largely a sinister circus with no ability to confer moral legitimacy on a volunteer dog-catching outfit.

I believe we should interfere with the on-going massacre by Assad’s army by utilizing the abundant military resources we have in the region, especially resources currently afloat in the Mediterranean. From what I understand, we could cause significant mischief by directing drone attacks on tanks operating against residential areas and by sending the occasional cruise missile to”cruise” over military camps and military concentrations. There would be no need to issue specific warnings nor to comment after the fact. The opposition to the Assad regime is large enough and numerous enough to prevail if tanks are not reliably in the equation. Similarly, our forces could shoot down Syrian armed forces airplanes and helicopters, after a single “no-fly” warning.” That would be just to even out the game. And, it is not true that “if you break it you own it,” as the political general Colin Powell once said. There is no need to repeat the difficult experiences of Iraq, and especially of Afghanistan, where we became involved more or less mindlessly in nation-state building. We could break things and kill killers in Syria until Assad and his clique are gone and then, let the Syrians pick up the pieces as they like. They are an ancient and sophisticated people who have been kept in a state of artificial immaturity by a succession of tyrants. They would grow up soon if no one were shooting them in the head and bayoneting their children.

There is even a chance our actions would shame others in the region and elsewhere to lend a hand and to straighten themselves out to some extent. But we should not count on it. The United States should do the right thing irrespective of the actions and inaction of others. Our honor and our humanity are precious in their own right. When their preservation corresponds to our collective interest, there is no excuse for passivity.





About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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29 Responses to Syria: American Military Intervention?

  1. Terry Amburgey says:

    Well darn, nothing to disagree with. I’ll just have to bide my time till a Paulista comes by to explain why the right thing to do is ignore mass murder.

  2. Martin Anding says:

    So Terry and Jacques, what’s stopping you two from getting over there and aiding your perfered side? What about Sudan? What about Uganda? What about China vs. Mongolia? What about North Korea starving it’s own people?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Martin: You should not try to answer devastatingly what you have not read carefully. Please, look at the last sentence of that posting.

      As for why not go there personally, I also thought I had answered this repeatedly:

      1 The armed forces don’t want me because I am too old and too broken. As I have said, ten years ago, they did not even want me as a dishwasher.

      2 I have proposed that the US should bomb Assad’s forces from the sky. If I made it to Syria, I still would not have a plane nor would I know how to pilot one if I did. (The smaller drones look promising though. I will have to look into it.) If I take this route, I can’t even count on my old buddy Terry to drive the plane because it uses too much ganja.

      3 What’s wrong with sending the military to wage war, firefighters to fight fire, teachers to teach, social workers to rescue doddering old men? Join the 21 st century. Martin. This is not 1970. We have an all-volunteer military now. Didn’t someone one tell you? If you don’t want to fight, that’s OK but don’t join the military in any form.

      I am becoming impatient with old guys like you (and me) who live with their eyes firmly fixed on the days when they had a cause and the girls thought they were irresistible. Here are the bad news: You have no cause since terrorists really, really attacked us and keep trying to kill us. And the girls
      find you resistible. In act, if you made a heavy pass at a young woman she wouldn’t even bother to call the cops!

      Ah, ah. I feel better.

    • Terry Amburgey says:

      I was in the military for 4 years during the war in Vietnam. What about you Martin, ever perform public service?
      Sudan, Uganda yes; China, North Korea no.

  3. *yawn*

    I feel like I just got out of church.

    The bottom line is that you cannot prove this war would be good for Syrians, even Syrians you purport to want to protect. You just can’t. Here, let me remind you about Iraq.

    Now, I’m sure that your mother would be proud of you for standing up to a bully (from a safe distance of course), but some of us are unimpressed, especially when you continue to make apologies for colonialism old and new. You can call it humanitarian decency if you wish, but this argument is one for colonialism, plain and simple.

    If you want to give the Syrian factions opposed to Assad a chance (including Tehran-sponsored Hamas), then the best way forward is to end all the economic sanctions on the country (think here of the demand for weapons) and open up our borders to Syrian citizens.

    Bombing Assad is about as short-sighted as invading Iraq and installing a democracy. Side note: al-Maliki has recently detained a bunch of American contractors in order to maintain “Iraqi sovereignty”. This after he issued arrest warrants for some of his most prominent political rivals.

    Maybe you can think about it this way: the pompous war in Iraq strengthened the Iranian regime by removing an enemy and providing a convenient way to obtain a new buffer zone between the hostile, dictator-supporting, and mercantilist US government and its own reactionary regime.

    This has gotten boring. I have to deal with these arguments all the time from Leftists on campus, and they are much more haughty than Delacroix and friends. At least I get to see them cry when I dismiss their moaning about morals and their faulty logic and imaginary historical accounts.

    P.S. Hitler could have said a lot of different things. Whenever I hear the “H” word I know I’m right and the other person is getting desperate.

  4. Terry Amburgey says:

    The one silver lining of the war in Iraq is that isolationists no longer refer to the war in Vietnam as an excuse for their isolationism. Unfortunately, colonialism seems to be a term that never dies. Brandon seems to be channeling a student protester from the 1960s.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Well put. Wish I had thought of it myself. High-five!

      I did not want op say that clearly about Brandon because I don’t want him to cry (again) on the internet. The same thought had crossed my mind but I think he is in his twenties and I can’t figure out how the Vietnam era student protester filiation would run. I would guess an old Trostkyst teacher in his seventies but that would be pure, pure guess.

      • High-fives and name-calling all ’round. Great job fellas! The only thing missing here is an actual rebuttal…

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: This is an other case where the mindless energy of youth must prevail over the superior but tired wisdom of the aged, experienced, and cultured.

        Much about our discussions concerns values. I am pretty sure I will not be able to convince you of the superiority of my values. Instead, we are both displaying our wares for others. I am hoping to nudge a few away from the icy pseudo-rationalism of your tribal group. Speaking of which, I am nudging myself toward a wrap-up of what I learned about Congressman Paul’s extreme view of freedom of speech. (“Any thing I say must be true since I say it.”) At least, I recognize that I owe the world a wrap-up of an argument I started.

        Aside from this, I often hope that I others will take up the challenges you propose because life is both rich and short. Yesterday, I was a religious celebration for a child of a friend of mine. Another friend tried to engage me on the subject of the existence of God. Do you understand why I declined?

        I must sya though that I am curious about where you get your version of historical reality. I have an idea but I don’t want to say it aloud (like on this blog).

      • P.S. here are my writings answering some of the myths you two gentlemen believe in regards to colonialism and isolationism. Read ’em and weep!

      • No dude, I think we have the exact same values. We just have different ways of getting to these values. To pretend that non-interventionists don’t care about the bloodbath in Syria is dishonest.

        What we need to focus on is fixing the problem and not making it worse. What you propose will do neither. Just remember, both Iraq and Syria are former colonies.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        I think we have important values in common but mainstream libertarians want to act as if they had been vaccinated against ordinary compassion. They speak as if human emotion and rationality were antithetical to each other. They are not. Each is worthless without the other. Good action come from the heart and the mind agree.

  5. Terry Amburgey says:

    The United States is a collection of former colonies. Canada is a collection of former colonies all though these silly geese still have a queen. What is the implication of being a former colony?
    I don’t doubt that non-interventionists care about bloodbaths. I just think that wringing your hands and saying tsk tsk are inadequate responses.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Well-put and I would add two things:

      1 Look at the mess the Romans made in my country of origin, France, when they turned it into a colony. It was such a happy place when my ancestors used to rush into battle naked and painted blue!

      2 Sorry Prof. Terry: Canada is still a colony .It does not prevent Canadians from leading happy, peaceful lives and to play really good hockey.

      You are not serious, Brandon. You speak in incantations. I am just curius about where they come from.

    • Fellas! Fellas! You are still missing the big picture. When the US went to war with itself, which foreign states intervened on behalf of which side of the conflict?

      There is no hand-wringing either. End all economic sanctions on Syria. Open up our borders to the Syrian people. Also, get our erstwhile allies Turkey and Israel to do the same.

      This will eliminate the power of Assad quickly and efficiently.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Israel should open its borders to Syrians?

      • If Israel cannot open its borders to war refugees, we should be asking why.

        If the US cannot open its borders to refugees, we should be asking why.

        So: why can’t Israel open its borders up to the enemies of Assad?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: The animal that goes “woof-woof,” and lift a leg to pee is called “dog.” The animal that purrs when you pet it and that hunts birds in the backyard is called, “cat.” And so forth.

        Israel will not admit many Syrian refugees because for fifty years, Syrians have been taught that almost everything that goes wrong in Syria or in any other Arab country is Israel’s fault. Sometimes, plagues of grasshoppers are included. Even Syrians who hate Assad might be dangerous to the safety of Israel, a country that does not need any more enemies than it has.

        Now, let’s get to where you thought you were drawing me in a wily and sophisticated manner. Israel is squarely an ethnic religious entity where ethnicity is defined largely through religion and even through religious background. That would mean one’s parents’ and even one’s grandparents’ religion. The majority group, the Jews, insist on remaining the majority group in Israel. Since any refugees from Syria would not be Jewish, taking any in would potentially undermine the existing majority. Where are the Syrian Jews, by the way? They used to be numerous.

        In this respect, Israel is a lot like Saudi Arabia and like Jordan next door. Two main differences: First, there are large minority groups in Israel and they are thriving. (Jews and Muslims threaten to riot whenever a demagogue Israeli Jewish politician speaks of taken away their Israeli citizenship.) The second difference is that Israeli citizens enjoy a full democracy, with regular elections, alternance in power, an independent judiciary, a free press, etc. I mean all Israeli citizens. That includes Muslims and Christians. I think there is a Christian on the Israeli Supreme Court. Try to imagine a Christian, or a Jew (!) on the highest Jordanian court. (I am leaving Saudi a side for obvious reasons.)

        Prize your credibility.

      • My credibility? Here I am, trying to lay out theoretical insights on the blog of a prestigious scholar, and I am castigated for having little credibility. Oh the humanity! I have just three things from your lecture:

        1) I was not making a coy anti-Israeli critique. I think Israel has enough on its plate as it is, and I am happy that the US is one of the few states in the world who loudly and proudly support the Jewish state (whatever that means).

        2) I have noted that you tried to make my question an anti-Israeli one.

        3) The enemies of Assad are numerous. Very few of them are liberal, I am sure. It would be a shame if a US bombing campaign ushered in an Islamist regime that is both hostile to Israel and close to Iran. The fact that Israel cannot let any refugees in ought to be a clear signal to the more clear-eyed among us that something in the Middle East is very wrong, and that the Assad regime has very little to do with. How would bombing the Assad regime help to solve any of the Middle East’s problems? Even a little bit?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: I mean that you should consider more the appropriateness to making statements that you would have trouble believing yourself. It’s all based on impression fed by experience,of course. I don’t really know what you believe. But then, if you say something that is way out of the mainstream discourse, (such as it is), you should be careful to not estimate the people you address, including me.

        This latest clarification does not make much sense to me.

        Yes, there is something wrong about the Middle-East.

        Yes, your previous comment, the one you just tried to clarify, is anti-Israel. (No need to argue about this. I don’t speak lightly. I hear what I hear.)

        You insist on misrepresenting what I said. It’s tiresome. Dis I recommend that the US bomb “the Assad regime” ? Did I say anything about “solving the problems of the Middle-East”? Your credibility, again.

      • My my! You’re getting ornery Dr. J! You ask me a simple enough question (with a mean little tidbit at the end; How can you be so cruel?!):

        You insist on misrepresenting what I said. It’s tiresome. Dis I recommend that the US bomb “the Assad regime” ? Did I say anything about “solving the problems of the Middle-East”? Your credibility, again.

        Dude, in this very post, you wrote:

        I believe we should interfere with the on-going massacre by Assad’s army by utilizing the abundant military resources we have in the region […] From what I understand, we could cause significant mischief by directing drone attacks on tanks operating against residential areas and by sending the occasional cruise missile to ”cruise” over military camps and military concentrations […] The opposition to the Assad regime is large enough and numerous enough to prevail if tanks are not reliably in the equation. Similarly, our forces could shoot down Syrian armed forces airplanes and helicopters, after a single “no-fly” warning.” That would be just to even out the game […] We could break things and kill killers in Syria until Assad and his clique are gone and then, let the Syrians pick up the pieces as they like.

        Is this not advocating for bombing the Assad regime? Am I missing something? Seriously!

        Now, it’s true that you didn’t bring up “fixing the Middle East”, I did. I brought this up because I think it’s one of your arguments biggest weaknesses. The liberal interventionist has no proposals for solving (not “fixing”, speaking of misrepresentations…) the problems in the Middle East. You would simply bomb a regime (or maybe not…) and let the other factions in Syria “pick up the pieces”. You don’t see anything wrong with this?

        I am almost done with you:

        Yes, your previous comment, the one you just tried to clarify, is anti-Israel. (No need to argue about this. I don’t speak lightly. I hear what I hear.)

        Really? Where in my comments do I “sound” anti-Israel? AGAIN, speaking of misrepresenting one’s views…

        Look, I don’t know how else I can say this: Israel is the only place in the Middle East where you can find pornography, anarchist communes, rock music, and fairly good universities. It is a pretty bright spot as far as the Middle East goes. I think the United States should continue to defend Israel as an ally for as long as there is the sickening anti-Semitism pervading the Middle East. My only lament in our relationship with Israel is that we don’t have nearly enough free-flowing trade or immigration.

        Incidentally, I haven’t even criticized Israel in the thread. It doesn’t mean that I won’t, but it’s highly unlikely.

        I brought up a theoretical question in regards to the border situation near Syria. I also asked about Turkey, and was too lazy to include Jordan, Lebanon and Iran. If it makes you feel better, I guess I could just not include Israel in future discussions about the Near East. Would that make you feel better Dr. J?

        Back to actually solving the problem at hand (instead of just suggesting that we launch a bunch of bombs into the place and let the inhabitants “pick up the pieces”): the Middle East has a lot of structural problems that need to be addressed, and stifling borders in one of them (yes, Israel has a stifling border; it may have one for security reasons, but it is a stifling border nonetheless, and the last time I checked stifling borders were bad for societies no matter what).

        Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to open these societies up to the world? If so, how does bombing one faction at the expense of other factions contribute to this opening up? Can you give me an example?

        In short, you make scurrilous arguments based on raw emotion (like most girls I know) rather than thinking things through. Nobody is denying what a bad guy Assad is, but we do have to think about the consequences of what our actions would do to both Syrian society and the region Syria is in. Would you like me to update you on the coup in Mali and the violence in Chad and Niger?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: You spend so much energy accusing me of the blackest of sins I hardly dare respond. Here is a partial response.

        Much of what you say is too elliptical form me. You are counting too much on me to extricate meaning from you throw-away lines. It’s possible that I misunderstand what you meant to say but did not state clearly. So, I take good note of your pro-Israel sentiments (not that they are central to anything we discussed. Yet it’s good that I don’t have to assume present in your writing the vulgar anti-Semitism so common among isolationists).

        Other than this, our respective words stand on their own. I hope there are readers to judge which argument is right about what.

        The coolness in your last paragraph (“Nobody is denying what a bad guy Assad is.”) is dishonorable. That’s a subjective feeling, of course. Much of life is like that.

        Your comparing me to a girl is unpleasant because it makes people who respect me wonder why I spend time arguing with someone so childish as to speak that way. I wish you would deny yourself the self-indulgence.

  6. Terry Amburgey says:

    I don’t think there is a Christian on the supreme court but there is an Israeli Arab, Salim Joubran. There was a small kerfuffle recently when he didn’t sing the national anthem but even Netanyahu supported him.
    Unless I’m mistaken Turkey has already let in something like 20,000 Syrian refugees.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Deuh, deuh, Prof. Terr. , Salim Joubran is a Christian!

      Every time you consider correcting me, you should think of the low likelihood you are going to be right and weep!

      • Terry Amburgey says:

        As the internet kids would say ‘herp derp’. Alas I’m foiled again!

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Terry: You can say that again (and again, and again). However, I would gladly take a lesson the meaning of “herp derp.” I try to sound cool for those who don’t see my gray beard.

  7. Terry Amburgey says:

    Derp is an expression associated with stupidity, much like the earlier forms of interjections like “duh” and “dur.” In image macros, the subject is typically portrayed with eyes that are pointed to each side and a caption that reads “DERP.” The words “herp” and “derp” are often used in rage comics to replace nondescript names or parts of conversation.

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