The Syrian quagmire ending?

Probably the most newsworthy item at present again involves Syria, with the collapse of the rebel forces in Aleppo, and the associated reduction of that part of the city to rubble. We are starting to get images from the region, and it is clear that an enormous amount of money will be required to rebuild that part of the city. An effort has been made to offer the insurgents transport to insurgent held villages elsewhere, and what we see is a lit of civilians are going as well. To my mind, this indicates that the reason the rebels held Eastern Aleppo is because the civilians were sympathetic. In turn, that strongly suggests the rebellion is now down to religion: Sunnis attempting to get rid of the Shias. With Hezbollah and Iran involved, that is not going to happen.

One of the biggest disasters there is undoubtedly the high number of civilian casualties, and a number of commentators in the West have called for war crimes trials on certain Russians. At the same time, the West has been strangely quiet relating to casualties in Mosul, where the US is bombing, and, strangely enough, the attack is being managed by the Shias. This bombing and the inevitable casualties has raised the issue of justice and international law, and I am afraid from my point of view, many of those in the West are merely arm-waving and arguing that “they are war criminals”. Nobody denies that killing of civilians is bad, but what could Assad and the Russians do? The objective is to remove the rebels, and to be quite clear, the rebels included factions that wished to impose the strictest form of Islamic law. Women should be kept at home and do nothing but housework and breed. As for nobility amongst the rebels, I saw a TV clip from an observer who had been in eastern Aleppo, and saw a family “home invaded” by rebels looking for food. They took everything, and when the mother complained about feeding the children, they shot her through the jaw to stop her complaints. So much for the noble rebels. There is no way those involved in something like the al Nusra front can be expected to change their ways and be persuaded to become peaceful citizens, so Assad either has to defeat them, or let Syria be run by them and ISIS in full Wahabbi extremism.

Let us look at “International Law”. Who is the sovereign entity? Who imposes the law? As far as I can make out, it is at a very similar state to that of ancient Rome, except that there is no clear law-making entity. In ancient Rome, prosecutions were made by citizens, and the results tended to be resolved by the eloquence of the lawyer, or the standing of the participants. Thus during the late Republic, Clodius could organize a gang to beat up a politician he did not like, or even burn down someone’s house. Nothing would stop him. So-called international justice is a bit like that now: victor’s justice.

At the end of WW II, a lot of Nazis were tried for war crimes, not that there were such recognized crimes, although many were guilty of crimes under the German criminal code. Most people are not particularly concerned about the doubtful legality of the process because those found guilty were mainly really very bad people. But there were double standards. Any German who could be of any further use to one of the occupying powers was immediately granted immunity.

Then, if we consider killing innocent civilians to be a war crime, was the fire bombing of Hamburg a war crime? Of Tokyo? Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki war crimes? If not, why not? For me, the fire bombing of Dresden had to be a crime, because the war was clearly essentially over, Dresden had no military value then, and 35,000 civilians were killed for no good purpose. Why is that not a war crime? Hopefully, not because it was us that did it, not them. In more recent times, the invasion of Iraq has led to some unknown number of deaths, but certainly in the hundred thousand range.

My view is Syria will be better off with the Wahabbi extremists defeated. If so, and given a somewhat lacking of alternatives, I believe that the Russian bombing of Aleppo was a valid means of pursuing the war. Yes, innocent people were killed, but at least we now see the possibility of an end to the carnage. The question we must ask is, what was the alternative? Just leaving the rebels alone to rearm and reorganize? Prolong the misery indefinitely?

So what happens now? If there is going to be peace, how do you arrange that? Negotiate with ISIS and the al Qaeda derivatives? Separate the country and give them their Caliphate? Or have a secular government, and force the citizens to behave? That would be essentially a return to what Syria was before all this started. If you think you could do this without Assad, then nominate who will be the new government, and outline why will it work. How do you impose order? And most importantly, how do you get the economy of a country bombed to bits back running again? It took Germany many years after WW II, and the US put a lot of money in to get restoration going. Further, there was a well-established industry in Germany. Syria seems to have none of those advantages.

This will be my last post for 2016, but I shall be back mid January. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and all the best for a successful and healthy 2017.

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8 thoughts on “The Syrian quagmire ending?

  1. The Distinction Between Truth & Meta-Truth Is Very Practical:
    It helps to find out what is a war crime, and what is not. For example, Hitler invading Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were each a war crime. Although only the one was a shooting war, the three of them were unprovoked invasions. Hitler made little arguments to show he was right to invade in every case. On the first two, one could contrive that he was saying the truth.

    However, in the big picture, Hitler was lying, and his invasions were exactly that, with no proportional reasons to justify them. Thus, locally, little truths here and there. Globally, though, as wrong as wrong can be.

    In Syria, or Iraq, the deep motivation of the US Deep State, maybe unconsciously, was to create a mess. This way, it’s a success.

    The UK and the USA refused to intervene in Syria, leaving the French Republic treacherously, at the last minute, as the only one willing to re-establish civilization. Assad had already acted as a criminal against civilization. Thus the USa and the UK, at that point, turned into collaborators of Assad… And thus Putin.

    We had seen the same situation in World War Two, or even World War One: the USA collaborated, crucially, with the German fascist war criminals, enabling them to act with impunity, for a while.

    Looking at criminality against humanity in a meta way, is the only way.

    In other news, turmoil among Muslims will not stop, as long as Literal Islam is lawful to preach.

    • Patrice, are you saying every war is a crime? If so, I suppose you could be correct, but who or what lay down the “lex” saying so? There have been wars since time immemorial, so for Hitler’s wars to be crimes, either all wars were crimes, or some organisation “created” the law.. If the latter, who? And an important point – the law has to be explicit before the event for the event to be a crime.

      Hitler might have argued that he was recovering German speakers stolen after WW1, and in Poland, he was trying to recover Danzig. But before I go any further, let me say at once I have no sympathy for Hitler and is lot, and at the end, hanging was too good for them.

      As for Syria, the issue for me is not what is right or wrong, but what, if anything, is a practical way to stop the Muslims shooting at each other, and also for sending off people to shoot/bomb whatever people in other countries. Germany might be learning that offering sympathy to refugees has a price, because they are not all refugees.

      • I never wanted to give the impression each war is a crime, just the opposite. There are (plenty of) just wars. Shutting down Assad would have been a just war.

        Muslims tend to kill each other in great part because the Quran says that killing an unbeliever insures a spot in paradise.

        I know of Hitler’s little truths. My whole point was that, seen from the bigger picture, they would lead to incomparably larger mayhem.

  2. Ian, I think it’s intriguing that you’re looking ahead. It’s a good idea to start at least mentally preparing for an end to the war, but also what new conflicts will start then.

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