Assad’s Syria: The Tiny Monster

I am listening to a Q and A session with a panel of experts on National Public Radio. It’s about beating up Assad (not “Syria”). Soon, it becomes obvious that the callers don’t have dimensions, calibers in mind. They don’t seem to have looked up Syria at all. (I should have guessed; I used to be a teacher.) They don’t realize that Syria is a small underdeveloped country. They overestimate how tough a nut it would be to crack. I mean if the US only tried to crack it and not to eat it.

Here are the basic facts about Syria. I found them through judicious, learned, highly specialized research on Wikipedia.

Population: 22,5 million. That’s about one fifth of the population size of Mexico.

Gross Domestic Product per capita: $5,100. That’s about one third of the Mexican GDP per capita.

Technical note: GDP per capita is a common measure of a country’s earnings divided by its population size. It’s good enough for my rough comparison purposes. This one is measured in such a way – “purchasing power parity” – that comparison with other countries’ GDPs per capita are meaningful even if not perfect.

As usual when there are crises in that part of the world, many people are worried about disruptions of oil exports. Well, Syria is one of those few Arab countries Allah slighted. It has little oil. Its oil exports are to Mexico’s oil exports like 6 is to 300. It’s not nothing but it’s close. More military action in that part of the world could indirectly disrupt oil flows from other countries. I don’t think so given the kind of action anticipated by the Obama administration. Qatar and Saudi Arabia – both of which want the US to intervene – can easily pump more oil than they currently do to make up for any shortfall.

In view of these facts, if you are against an American military intervention, it should not be on the ground that Syria is a fearsome power. The ground should be that it’s unfair to beat on a little guy, on less than half of a little guy in this case. Next step is to argue that of course, Assad has to use nerve gas against some on his citizens of all ages because he is weak and powerless leader of a small and poor country. Poor guy!


About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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12 Responses to Assad’s Syria: The Tiny Monster

  1. JC Mullis says:

    Here are the points against intervention in Syria that I have heard discussed by tacticians not new reporters: 1. Syria’s chemical weapons delivery systems are mobile and easily hidden. 2. It requires high levels of heat to destroy chemical weapons and the only weapons we have which could do this would cause tremendous collateral damage. 3. There is a possibility that the chemical weapons previously used in Syria were done so by the Rebels and not the Syrian government. 4. The weapons stockpiles may already have been re-positioned into areas to create maximum collateral damage if attacked (i.e kill thousands of civilians). 5. Russia has provided Syria with a sophisticated Surface to Air Missile defense system (this is no cake walk and US blood will be spilled). 6. The rebel forces we would like to help (the FSA) make up less than 30% of the rebels fighting the Syrian government. If we tip the balance in the “Rebels” favor, there is a good possibility that one of the other factions will take over Syria, making things worse (bringing Sharia law to the country). 7. While using chemical weapons is brutal, it is no more so than the level of brutality that commonly occurs in most of the Islamic world (Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.). How are we justified in protecting one group against atrocity while ignoring so many others? 8. I don’t see where our national interest is demonstrably improved by the use of force in Syria. 9. Russia is arguably Syria’s biggest ally, they already have troops on the ground and are partnering with Syria in a gas/oil pipeline, and their only warm/deep water port in the Med is in Syria. Russia has a “definite” national interest in maintaining Assad’s government. This means that unlike other incidents in the region where Russia has stood on the sidelines, there is a high probability of Russia siding and fighting alongside Syria if attacked by a superior force such as the US or NATO. 10. Once a shooting war starts you can never tell how far it will go or when it will end. Picture this: The US attacks Syria with limited airstrikes — the rebels start to win so Russia attacks the Syrian Rebels with air and or ground forces — the US (or rebels with US weapons) fires on the Russian forces in Syria — Russia retaliates by using advanced (1st caliber) munitions/missiles on US planes and/or warships (40/60 chance of success) — US quits? or attacks the sites the weapons were fired from. In the heat of battle who knows what will happen or how far it will go. Oh, and I don’t even want to think about what could happen in the rest of the region while this is going on.

  2. Terry Amburgey says:

    I’m not sure why you think that opponents of a military strike in Syria is based on fear of Syria as “…a fearsome power”. I’m definitely befuddled by your use of Mexico as a comparison to Syria to evaluate military capabilities. I assume the latest teapublican approach to immigration reform is to invade Mexico.

    But you want a comparison so let’s do it. Let’s use our two latest military adventures.

    Iraq (2012)
    population: 32.58 million
    GDP per capita: 6,454.62 USD
    population: 29.82 million (2012)
    GDP per capita: 619.59 USD (2011)
    So using the Delacroix-methodology for evaluating military prowess we can expect Syria to be tougher than Afghanistan but not as tough as Iraq. So….

    4,486 deaths in Iraq
    $814,204,643,813 Iraq
    2091 deaths in Afghanistan
    $657,247,067,219 Afghanistan

    I’m sure that any idjits out there that believe the administration is proposing an invasion [like my idjit nephew] will be comforted.

  3. Terry Amburgey says:

    edit: “opposition to”

    • Mullis: “there is a high probability of Russia siding and fighting alongside Syria if attacked by a superior force such as the US or NATO. ”

      Who in the world said this?

      You listed all the good arguments why the US should sit out any list of atrocities anywhere, anytime.

      • JC Mullis says:


        “Who in the world said this?” This is the unspoken narrative and the reason President Obama did not simply conduct a missile strike on the Syrian Palace. He clearly wanted political cover in case the “excrement hit the proverbial rotary oscillator”.

        “You listed all the good arguments why the US should sit out any list of atrocities anywhere, anytime.” I think the details of the arguments listed were very specific to Syria. Any similarity to other people/countries both real and fictional was strictly accidental. As a retired military member, I believe in the just war theory that states that military action should: have a just cause, be a last resort, be declared by a proper authority, possess right intention, have a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used. I would add that once action is taken, the initiator has to be able to live with the consequences and its clear that the President could not do so without political cover. If, as it appears, President Obama simply wanted to “punish” President Assad for perceived “war crimes” there are political means of doing so short of war (such as freezing his family’s international bank accounts and seizing his personal assets).

  4. Terry: As I indicated, I listened to a NPR call-in show. I got the impression from it that the NPR callers saw Syria as much bigger and powerful than it is. Most thought Syria was a big oil player.The comparison with Mexico brings into play a foreign country with which Americans are most likely to be familiar. It’s all a public service.

    Iraq and Afghanistan are similar to Syria (Afghanistan’s GDP/capita is much large than shown if poppy earnings are thrown in.) In both wars, the US got lost in a completely avoidable state-building venture based on the stupid slogan: “If you wreck it you own it.” Nearly all the American deaths resulted from this venture. The number of deaths of Americans before the US took Baghdad and.Kandahar was less than in a bad spring weekend in California. No one is proposing a state building project in Syria.

    Let me remind you that there is no draft.

    I am tired of talking about the cost of the Iraq war and of the Afghan war. I will just repeat that I could pay my share of both forever. Throw in the cost of a short, violent attack of the Assad murderers and I can still afford it.

  5. Terry Amburgey says:

    @JC Mullis
    Of course you believe in just war. It seems that the people that actually have to go to war have a diiferent view than those that don’t. For example our own war criminal vice president [one of Jacques’ heroes] applied for and received five draft deferments. When asked why, “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service”. Once he was safe his views on war seems to have changed dramatically.

    To give Jacques credit where credit is due, he was in the French navy. The sordid details are in his autobiography 😉

    • J.C. Mullins: So your answer to my question is that nobody in particular said what you said except you.

      Much mischief has been done by people who bandy about the so-called “theory” of the”just war.” By the way, you have not told us clearly how an attack on Assad would violate the alleged theory. Missing from your narrative is what is for me the central issue: Is it necessary for the country with the only means to do so to make it expensive for a tyrant illegally to gas his own people?

      Subsidiary question: Do you believe there are no consequences or negligible consequence associated with not intervening?

      Terry: As is more and more often the case, I am not sure where you are going . I don’t know which vice-president you refer to, Joe Biden?

      All US military are volunteers. You have trouble remembering this, Terry. It’s their job to risk their lives, same as firemen. Get up from the past, please.

      Incidentally: I am not volunteering to fight forest fires in the Santa Cruz mountains. Does this mean that I have no right to opine aloud that forest fires should be contained? You don’t seem to have examined the implications of your assertions and of your innuendos.

      For anyone who is interested: I was drafted into the French Navy. There was no shame in being there in 1960 and 1961. We had fresh croissants every morning.I was never eligible for the US draft.

      Terry: Your jokes about my service are insider jokes. You should not make them around people who have not read my memoirs.

      By the way, Terry: What’s your position on dictators gassing their opposition’s children? On the Rwandan genocide? On our leftie friend Pot Pol’s wonderful invention of self-genocide? On the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the mentally ill in Germany before this? None of anybody’s business?

      • JC Mullis says:

        Jacques, We are all entitled to a reasoned opinion based upon the facts we are presented with and our past experience. Remember, that no one in the press was claiming Japan was about to attack the US before Pearl Harbor, but it still happened. As I see it the Russians have been quite emboldened of late. Not enough to start WW3, but certainly enough to flex their muscles and stare down a US President.

        As for a punitive attack on Syria, there are 4 circumstances under which the US Military can legally (based on signed treaties and international law) become involved in a war 1) In response to an attack. 2) Preemptively if we are about to be attacked. 3) When we’ve been invited into the country of an ally, who has been attacked. 4) When a country has violated an international norm, “to which it has agreed”. None of these conditions applied in this case.

        “Do you believe there are no consequences or negligible consequence associated with not intervening?” Oh, certainly there are! However, I do not believe that they outweighed the negative consequences of a rushed “punitive” first strike.

        As for your service in the French Navy, I am sure it was honorable and most enlightening to a young mind. I was personally impressed by the French Military in the first Gulf war. Anyone who could provide freshly baked bread in the field is a welcome ally. However, they were rarely invited to classified intelligence briefings as were the English, Canadian, Australian and German forces.

  6. Terry Amburgey says:

    “Terry: Your jokes about my service are insider jokes. You should not make them around people who have not read my memoirs.”

    I’m encouraging the denizens of your blog to read your autobiography. It’s a minor form of public service.

    “By the way, Terry: What’s your position on dictators gassing their opposition’s children? On the Rwandan genocide? On our leftie friend Pot Pol’s wonderful invention of self-genocide? On the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the mentally ill in Germany before this? None of anybody’s business?”

    All of those horrors are and were everyone’s business. There should’ve been immediate and robust action to stop each and every one. If the US had provided proper assistance to the Syrian opposition several years ago many of the present circumstances could’ve [in my opinion] been avoided.

  7. JC Mullis: You should do a little more to claim authority on constitutional issues. That would mean your own credentials or your sources. I am not saying you are wrong. I don’t know. I am interested.

    Note that I beat you to the wisecrack about the French: I mentioned fresh croissants to Terry before you most recent communication. Incidentally, Terry mentioned my military service. I did not; I seldom do.

    I am an emigrant who does not have to defend the French armed forces, but the fact is that recently, they conducted alone an exemplary military operation against violent jihadists ending in a legitimate election. We could do worse.

    Feel free to write your own piece under your own name for me to post about what not to do with respect to Assad.

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