How to Defeat the Islamic State
November 26, 2014 2:04 AM   Subscribe

How to Defeat the Islamic State. "Over the last thirteen years, America’s foreign policy has consisted mostly of defining what we don’t want: Saddam, Al-Qaida, Qaddafi, Boko Haram, the Islamic State. But we have failed to define what we do want. Rather than pausing to define the ultimate aim of our involvement – the very point of war for military action is just a means to a political end – we have rushed ahead anyway: Ready, Shoot, Aim. Unfortunately, we now have quite the track record of removing one monster only to find a more brutal monster in his place. This global war will never end without a coherent American strategy and we don’t have one for Iraq and Syria at the time of this writing. [...] To defeat the Islamic State and to further American interests, the United States must create a legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis."
posted by Golden Eternity (111 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
We'll totally get it right this time, for sure!
posted by ryanrs at 2:11 AM on November 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just in time for Thanksgiving!
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:26 AM on November 26, 2014


to further American interests, the United States must

Sums it up.
posted by Drexen at 2:54 AM on November 26, 2014 [35 favorites]


global war will never end without a coherent American strategy

Uhm, who said anything about wanting the war to end?

I wasn't really aware of how the ethnic cleansing / Shi'a takeover in Iraq was so directly linked to the rise of ISIS. So now the US is backing not just Assad, but the Iranian theocracy's puppet state in Iraq too? Wow, we really have always been at war with Eastasia and allied with Eurasia, go figure!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:55 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


ISIS already is furthering "American interests" if you consider "American interests" to be American politicians and bureaucrats increasing their own power through fear mongering, American defense contractors bilking American tax payers, etc.

We'd a from pretty good proposal for dealing with ISIS from Chelsea Manning way back in September, which amounted to "Contain ISIS by backing nearby groups who do not wish to join them. Allow the Arab world to see that ISIS cannot govern effectively."
posted by jeffburdges at 3:14 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Definition of insanity : watching someone obtain the same results again and again but assuming this is somehow unintentional.
posted by fullerine at 3:24 AM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


This sentence is (a) hard to parse; (b) morally bankrupt; and (c) stupid:
If indefinitely detaining the worst insurgents at Guantanamo or waterboarding senior insurgent leaders is considered a controversial means to combat this enemy, then America does not have the capacity to effectively replace a dictator’s security forces in the fight against this enemy whose ideology is so potent that their fighters can behead innocents in cold blood.
The USA doesn't have the ability to capture "the worst insurgents", and there are always more where they came from. And waterboarding, like other forms of torture, is not only illegal but has been shown to be useless.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:10 AM on November 26, 2014 [14 favorites]


Maybe the USA needs to question who the brutal monster really is?

But that would be hard.
posted by biffa at 4:26 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


His prescription for US policy makers boils down to a rather brutal sequence of real-politic:

(1) use air combat tools, including a no-fly zone, to force Assad and his allies to acknowledge defeat outside, and withdraw within, a rump Allawite-Christian state in the west of (present) Syria

(2) encourage and support Iraqi Kurdistan to declare independence and annex Syrian Kurdistan, presumably promising the Turks that the US will regard it as a NATO imperative that Turkish Kurd areas stay under the rule of Ankara

(3) compel the Shi'a Iraqis and the Iranian spies who pull their strings to give up Sunni and Kurdish territory, on the threat that if they don't, the US will abandon Shi'a Iraq to the ISIS machetes

(4) artfully inject military aide to the extent needed to keep the Sunni elements fighting each bloody in the Sunni-majority portions of Iraq and Syria now left to them, eventually supporting the emergence of a secular strongman like Mubarak or the Gulf emirs who will eliminate what's left of ISIS and be able to maintain an ongoing suppression of extremists.
posted by MattD at 4:36 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


How the hell can one country "create a legitimate" government for another country. Isn't that pretty much the definition of illegitimate?
posted by rikschell at 4:37 AM on November 26, 2014 [29 favorites]


Just this once I wish Metafilter was owned by Gawker Media so I could post that Picard facepalm gif.
posted by duffell at 4:52 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow. You can feel the contradictions inside Captain Kurtz bubble out, on top of an inner horror:
In hindsight, raids I led that resulted in the capture of high value targets may have actually increased the lethality of the Islamic State. That thought makes me nauseous.
I mean, he says (or rather he and Michelle Seaton) we should undo Sykes-Picot by imposing a new Sykes-Picot creating a land-locked Sunni Arab state, with a thin sliver of land connecting it to the oil in Kurdistan and ruled by a benevolent Western oriented dictator... but you can tell, that if this doesn't work (and why would this brilliant idea fail) what comes next.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:08 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The politics of failure have failed; we must make them work again!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:20 AM on November 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


But we have failed to define what we do want.

I call BS on this. It is pretty clear what the US wants: Freedom, Democracy, Free Markets. Or, if you prefer to peel back the layers a little bit: bolster America's image as the defender of nations, friendly governments to lend money to, oil & exports. Also to ensure that as many countries as possible fall within the US sphere of influence, as opposed to Iran, Russia or China.

Why the US is failing to achieve those goals is another topic entirely, but you have to keep in mind that the measure of success varies greatly depending on point of view. Public opinion and foreign policy goals do not usually mix well.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


To defeat the Islamic State and to further American interests, the United States must create a legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis.
Since all our efforts in the ME to do that kind of creation have failed miserably, I propose a different approach: let's pick up our toys and bring our boys home, and spend the billions we're wasting in that region to make our own country energy-independent by creating a renewable energy infrastructure.

I know it won't happen that way, because Senator Halliburton, Senator Exxon, and Senator BP won't allow it, but let's at least talk about it, instead of talking about these stupid doomed-to-fail schemes for creating something nobody over there wants.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:51 AM on November 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


No, no, NO. The United States needs to let the people of other countries decide what they want and what sorts of institutions they would like to create and then work to assist them in creating and building that. Period. That is the only way to succeed on the global stage.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:14 AM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


We should just get out. I'm sorry, but the Pottery Barn rule is horseshit. If someone lets a raging bull into a pottery barn, they don't demand that the bull buy stuff or put stuff back together, they kick the fucking thing out and don't let it back in.

This is a humpty dumpty situation here.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


That is the only way to succeed on the global stage.

I guess that depends on your definition of "success". Plenty of countries, including the US, do just fine not doing that, as long as they don't care what happens to anyone else.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:19 AM on November 26, 2014


To defeat the Islamic State and to further American interests, the United States must

GTFO, and then offer reparations in the form of aid - infrastructure, medicine, straight-up cash, the lot - to at the very least shoulder some responsibility for putting the region in the violent tailspin it's in right now.

I mean I'm very much in favor of getting the military the hell outta there, but I think the least that can be done would be to offer totally civilian-related aid.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:06 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering what the legal, moral/ethical foundation is for the assumption that its a US responsibility to sort this. Doesn't that just further the narrative around sustaining American hegemony in the region?

Also based just upon the pull quote, is it some deep and insightful analysis that we need a 'coherent strategy' or that somehow WE must create a secular political alternative?
posted by sfts2 at 10:25 AM on November 26, 2014


I agree this plan is nuts and foolish.
posted by humanfont at 10:57 AM on November 26, 2014


How the hell can one country "create a legitimate" government for another country. Isn't that pretty much the definition of illegitimate?

Well, not really. We did it in Japan and Germany and South Korea, for instance. We helped the Philippines set up its government before we left.

Japan is a particularly good example because McArthur pretty much wrote the Japanese constitution.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


You can't win a war unless you openly identify who you are fighting, and why they are fighting. Blather about "They aren't truly Islamic" and "Islam is a religion of peace" proves you aren't serious.

Our enemies say they are motivated by the Words of the Prophet, and it behooves us to believe what they say. We are not at war with most of the world's Muslims, but we are at war with some of them, and it is Islam which motivates those and guides their actions.

Until we come out and say that, publicly and forthrightly, we cannot win. Without acknowledging that, and including it in all our planning, then our plans will be based on fiction and they will fail.

It is the essential first step, and the reason we haven't taken it is fear of being accused of racism, and fear of domestic anti-Muslim backlash.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:27 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


File away with the rest of those articles "How to do brain surgery. Tools available: two jackhammers and a woodchipper".

Our objectives in the ME, such as they are, and the tools available to us, have no points of contact. Any strategy that attempts to marry the two is going to be along the lines of a Dadaist play. Pointing out the absurdities in this article makes one feel foolish, as if the joke is on us, for taking it seriously in the first place.
posted by VikingSword at 11:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Doing nothing/withdrawing from the ME though is a very conscious action in of itself, and would undermine any people and instituions we currently support. I don't know what the best solution is to ISIS and Iraq/Syria, but of the multitude of ways we could act I am not sure if completely disconnecting from the region will result in a a better quality of life or system of government for the people living there. I personally think we have an obligation to support the least murderous option even though it will result directly in blood on American hands; to me the alternative would be a far more murderous region and/or set of regimes.
posted by rosswald at 11:31 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like Hall falls into the same trap he set out to bypass. "A legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis," is not something America can actually create. Certainly not in the current environment. It's impossible to set up a civil government while there are crucifixions and car bombs and death squads terrorizing people.

Hall's four-state solution for Syria and Iraq is interesting, but not novel. He lays out a plan to make it happen that has more chance of succeeding than America's current war plans in the area, but that's not saying much. There's a lot of ifs-and-buts in there, not least being the problem that there was an "inevitable result with the right support" in Vietnam too. Creating the political will to fund yet another attempt at a secular Arab state in Iraq and environs is going to be non-trivial. Any such state is going to be one proverbial "20-cartridges-and-two-grenades-per-man" vote away from destruction.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:37 AM on November 26, 2014


I personally think we have an obligation to support the least murderous option even though it will result directly in blood on American hands; to me the alternative would be a far more murderous region and/or set of regimes.

I don't see how this follows. We've shown no ability to locate options that are both less murderous and can hold onto power longer than it takes to drink a cup of coffee. At some point, the countries most directly impacted by the violence have to figure out their own shit, and if that means large, bloody wars, at least we're not the ones who are both getting killed and getting blamed. Throwing good money after bad has gotten us here; continuing to do the same in search of a magic pony solution that adds stability doesn't seem wise.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:37 AM on November 26, 2014


I agree this plan is nuts and foolish.

It's not a plan, it's a cry for help. This guy ran a death squad* during 2006-2007 for the US military and saw that it just killed more Americans and achieved nothing. He's grasping at straws to see some way to make his actions ultimately contribute to something worthwhile.

* that the US was assassinating figures on both sides of what was then a Iraqi civil war shows just how insane US war objectives in Iraq had become.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:40 AM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


This writer makes his money as a happy murderer for hire and thinks he is relevant.In order for peace to exist over there we have to leave. We have made a lot of conniving promises and bolstered our toadies, to continue practicing colonialim by adhering to its old forms and boundaries.

When this writer links a certain restive group to communism, then you see old school propagandizing at play. Little talking points lend a conservative veracity to this while appearing tp criticise past conservative actors.

Others have stated this and I will say it again, just get out, and get it out of mainstream political thinking that we have to do anything for or against other nations, or manage other nations. The area is rebalancing, it will happen better and quicker when we leave it. Whatever it comes to is what it comes to.

I saw a picture from an article about nations with the most slaveiry. A Pakistani boy is molding clay bricks. He is a slave of eight to eleven years. The only attention he will get might be in a Mosque, maye the only book he will ever see is a religious text. Whoever feeds him will have his loyalty, whatever they ask him, he will do. He and his sisters will serve intimately as demanded. This slavery, an atrocity by my personal standards, creates atrocity and is basic to what the west perceives as dysfunction. Yet western corporarions abroad reap profit from what they decry as societal abuse endemic to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

The corporations who make money on weapons systems should never be confused with humanitarians, this includes biological weapons.

We demonize who corporations fear will interfere. I am sick of this unelected, shadow government.
posted by Oyéah at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


What a mess the Middle East is. I don't agree with everything he says, but he's right in in his analysis about how both Bush (especially) and Obama administrations were acted with outsized American hubris.

His statement about Libyan rebels controlling thousands of surface-to-air missiles is most discomforting.

We are going to be paying for this mess for decades, and so are millions of others. For what? Oil, greed, power.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:22 PM on November 26, 2014


The Libyan militias are not doing anything with those missiles, if they actually have them. Maybe we need to stop frightening ourselves with hypotheticals.
posted by humanfont at 12:41 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Humanfont: A man fell off the top of a sky scraper. As he passed the 20th floor, he was heard to say, "Well, I'm OK so far..."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:06 PM on November 26, 2014


From Hall: "America should arm and support the Kurds to the maximum extent possible where they are fighting for Kurdish territory."

Yeah. Might've been even better if we did that 5 or 10 years ago during the war.
Or 15 years before the war.
Or 20-odd during the uprising against Saddam and the first gulf war.
Or 25 years ago after the al-Anfal genocide.
Or 30 years ago before it.
Or 40 years ago with Barazani and the Iran-Iraq war. Or...well, you know. I mean, yeah, we should. But not, uh, gonna happen, is what I'm saying.

Or rather, it'll get prick-teased to agitate unrest that we can exploit and maybe come in and bust stuff over, but it won't really make the cut.

And there's no such thing as a real pro-western leader in that region. We betray them. It's what the west does. Ask an Arapaho or Choctaw. Hell, we loved Saddam for years. Didn't end well I hear.

"It is pretty clear what the US wants: Freedom, Democracy, Free Markets...
Why the US is failing to achieve those goals is another topic entirely,
"

"Wants" is a kettle of fish unto itself. We're essentially at war over that.

The hell of it is, there actual well armed, well funded cold blooded fanatics who won't leave us alone, who actively want to convert us, degrade our women and kill us if we won't comply.

I think the piece was fairly accurate and clear focused. But, as noted above, entirely naive.
Blake Hall is looking at the 'how.' The operational standpoint. Without regard to the politcial will.
Bit like working for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation looking at practical methods to deal with Aliens.

They are psychotic madmen working for mysogynist anti-intellectual genocidal religious fanatics who genuinely want to kill Americans whether they're in the Middle East or not.

But y'know, you don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


With regard to Libya, at least one can say "Thanks, Obama!" with one snark on top instead of two. The funny part is how lefty interventionists proclaimed Libya to be an example of the "good" intervention in the ME and "successful". That lasted a whole 5 minutes and the mess has been getting worse ever since. So what was the lesson the interventionist boneheads like Susan Rice and Samantha Power drew from this? That we should have intervened there harder and kept at it longer! Plus Syria! Seriously, how is it that they don't see the irony is mind blowing. They are absolutely no different from the neocons in this respect, whose response to the multi-layered catastrophes in the ME as a result of their interventions was exactly the same: "we should have done it harder and longer". McCain-Rice-Power-Cheney.

Seeing what a success the Western intervention in overthrowing Ghaddafi was, we decided to do the same thing with Assad in Syria, except we didn't quite "succeed" there, because we couldn't bomb directly as we did in Libya - the Russians would have none of it.

Somehow overthrowing dictators (after sometimes supporting them previously) in the ME is leading to worse disasters. Maybe, just maybe, we should, like, butt out altogether, and let the societies in question sort out their own affairs? No? Longer and harder instead? So how has longer and harder worked out in Afghanistan? Taliban is just a memory, presumably, after we've done longer and harder than just about any war in our history?

Direct U.S. military engagement in the war in Afghanistan has now lasted longer than any conflict in our history (depending on how you count the length of our Vietnam engagement) - longer than the Revolutionary war, Spanish-American war, WWI, WWII, Korean, Iraq and so on. A war in which we had the support of NATO and other allies and where we've spent stupendous resources on infrastructure and nation-building. And what do we have to show for it? Maybe this cherry on the top: Taliban and IS are joining forces.

Meanwhile, ISIS is expanding in Libya, and threatening to destabilize Tunisia next. Anyone else have the odd feeling that just as in the case of Hussein, so too with Ghadaffi - the previous devil was far more preferable than the new one. B-b-b-but longer, and harder, yeah, that's the ticket!
posted by VikingSword at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2014


Government/Political structures are systems. But, we, in our Cartesian ignorance, choose to look at them as mechanical structures, where you can re-arrange the deck chairs to get a different result. People may not get the government they deserve, but they certainly get the government they are ready for. To expect a western style democracy to work in a non-western country, with vastly different cultural and political structures with borders designed by western colonialists is the height of ignorant hubris. We need to pick up and leave.
posted by prodigalsun at 2:34 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't see how this follows. We've shown no ability to locate options that are both less murderous and can hold onto power longer than it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and even to a degree Egypt have been states that have succeeded with long term American support and are all somewhere in the 'strongman'/monarchy continuum. Of course none of these are perfect examples of a government "of and by the people," but they are by far not the worst possibility for a ME country.

A Bahrain like regime in Iraq/Syria would probably disgust me and invariably some groups ethnicities will be on the losing side, but it should promise more stability and protection than the current swirling mess of militias and foreign fighters.
posted by rosswald at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2014


Doing nothing/withdrawing from the ME though is a very conscious action in of itself, and would undermine any people and instituions we currently support.

Slowly withdrawing from the ME seems to be what the Obama administration had been doing, especially as fracking became so promising, and the results were horrifying: genocide in Syria - backed by Russia and Iran, and the rise of Daesh with indirect if not direct support from Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. I don't think things will get magically better if the US withdraws completely; all indications are that they were getting much worse as the US withdrew. The US should stay involved and try to help forge a stable outcome with security restored for as many people as possible, imo.

A legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis

A secular alternative "for Sunnis" run by Ali Hatem sounds like kind of a contradiction. But I think working directly with the tribes is probably what needs to be done if a Sunni opposition to Daesh has any chance. Of course this is what General Allen has already been doing in Iraq. I doubt the US, or Ali Hatem, have much direct access to the tribes in Syria, though. It doesn't seem like they should throw in the towel on trying to hold Iraq together just yet. Shared oil money from Basra and Erbil and participation in the federal government would be primary incentives for Sunnis in Iraq to oppose Daesh, I would think. That all goes away with a separate state robbed of its natural resources. I wonder if Hall isn't exaggerating the ethnic cleansing by Shi'a in Baghdad to some degree. I've read about Sunnis and Shi'a still getting along well in some neighborhoods, even in the midst of weekly Sunni VBIED terrorist attacks. And Sistani has spoken out in support of moderate Sunnis in Baghdad.

Syria is such a mess, I don't think there is much the US can do other than support the Kurdish cantons and maybe help connect them together with Iraq. This would be opposed by Turkey and the "FSA," but at least it could create a small potentially stable region. The Jazera canton is supporting hundreds of thousands of refugees inside Syria, which is pretty amazing.

We can't support Assad's genocide, but we definitely don't want to see Assad defeated by the current opposition. Assad just massacred a hundred civilians in Raqqa the other day. Not helpful. The best would be for him to be replaced from within Damascus. I guess maybe the US could try to organize "moderate rebels" and tribes into areas protected by a NFZ, similar to the Kurdish cantons.

I think Hall gets some things right that make the piece interesting:

- Elections are not as important as effective government, a functioning economy, security, protection of minorities and human rights, and preventing sectarian violence, even if that means supporting a dictator or installing a puppet. I don't think the US could have propped up Mubarak, though.
- His assessment of the roots of Salafi Jihadism are on target. Maybe he exaggerates the threat, but it's hard to say. As unpopular as these groups are, it is amazing how successful they have been.
- The framing of us as being at war with Salafi Jihadism, us being the rest of the world basically, whether we've liked it or not, or whether we've realized it or not, is also on target.
- It's an obvious point, but the criticism of constantly getting into conflicts without clear longer term objectives is also on point, though mayb a bit unfair considering how hard it is to predict the future that far out.

I would add that we should have been and should be providing better support to our friends around the world from the beginning. Friends being any groups who wish to be productive participants in global cooperation - groups like the Kurds, and other more secular, more liberal groups in the region. And this starts with having a bigger presence on the ground to be able to identify who our friends are and perhaps help them create cantons similar to the Syrian Kurds where this is at all possible.

Anyone else have the odd feeling that just as in the case of Hussein, so too with Ghadaffi - the previous devil was far more preferable than the new one. B-b-b-but longer, and harder, yeah, that's the ticket!

Maybe it would be a good idea to ask Libyians. I've seen a lot of anger on twitter at westerners for continually saying the current situation, as bad as it is, was worse than Gaddaffi. But these are the guys who were about to be slaughtered by him just before he was stopped from entering Benghazi. Of course a few of their friends have since been beheaded by Ansar al-Sharia. If you ask me we should be providing much more help to our friends in Libya
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:40 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


We are going to be paying for this mess for decades, and so are millions of others.

The frustrating thing is how many people were saying this back in 2002-2003. It was obvious then, and it's obvious now.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:41 PM on November 26, 2014


A handful of Militias in Libya have declared their allegiance to ISIS. These militias have been losing recently and their declaration of allegiance is just a desperate ploy to stay relevant.

The Obama administration has been wise to resist the urge to go bigger in Libya or Syria. We tried the go big strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq and the outcome has been a very expensive and horrible way to end up nowhere.

A strategy of limited, but decisive interventions such as our actions against Ghadaffi and ISIS is likely to yeild better and more lasting results in the long term.

It is a bit like grinding it out in poker. A small advantage at the table and enough time and you walk out a winner. It is boring and often very frustrating to fold hand after hand and avoid the temptation to just gamble; but you end up more successful.
posted by humanfont at 3:50 PM on November 26, 2014


I'm going to go ahead and posit that Obama has done a pretty good job - and by pretty good I mean ridiculously masterful job - navigating a foreign policy minefield (all the Middle East and Arab Spring, Ukraine, Libya, China, Mexico, etc) while dealing with this pathetic Congress, and cleaning up a financial meltdown and pursue a domestic agenda threatening to the white patriarchy. Sure its easy to criticize, infinite options and we can only pursue one strategy in each case. Who knows what might have worked better? Well, no one.

You could argue that the problems were caused by his policies, but I've yet to see anything radical that he has done (meaning significantly different than what every other President has done) that has a clear causal effect. I'd some to see some reasonably cogent (not some screed) fact based opinions to that effect. I'm not foreign policy expert, but I just don't see it.

You could also argue that the fact that he hasn't done anything radical as being the problem, fair enough. I say political realities, our system of government and its practical exercise share the blame for that.

Flame away.
posted by sfts2 at 4:30 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe it would be a good idea to ask Libyians. I've seen a lot of anger on twitter at westerners for continually saying the current situation, as bad as it is, was worse than Gaddaffi. But these are the guys who were about to be slaughtered by him just before he was stopped from entering Benghazi. Of course a few of their friends have since been beheaded by Ansar al-Sharia. If you ask me we should be providing much more help to our friends in Libya

Ask the Libyans, ey? Well, the most recent opinion poll that I am aware of is a year old, so somewhat out of date, but: "Only 32 percent of Libyans think that the country is better off now than before the 2011 revolution, however 65 percent believe that in three years, Libya will be better off."

So it looks like indeed Libyans do think that it was better under the old devil Ghadaffi by a ratio greater than 2:1, but were optimistic about the following 3 years. That contention therefore is exactly correct: the vast majority of Libyans DO think it was better under Ghadaffi. Obviously, it doesn't mean they actually liked or supported Ghadaffi by and large - only that the present is worse, and they are hoping for much better in the future. And here we are a year later, and as the situation has deteriorated disastrously, and it is hard to imagine that the number of Libyans thinking it's now better than under Ghadaffi has gone anywhere but down. And if there remains optimism, at a minimum it must have been postponed by at least a year.

But polls may or may not be reliable. It really doesn't matter. What matters is whether it is the Libyans themselves who got to determine their own fate, or yet again, old colonial powers and new empires had their thumbs on the scale. The case for staying out of the affairs of other countries, and crucially out of their civil wars (as we here in America would not have appreciated meddling in our Civil War), is that whatever the outcome, whether Ghadaffi would have stayed in power or been overthrown, it would be the Libyans who owned the situation - and that would be the point at which their opinions would matter regardless of any poll.

The ostensible grounds for intervention was Resolution 1973 demanding an end to attacks against civilians - so what happened to those "who were about to be slaughered" by Ghadaffi: Gaddafi has gone but Libya is more dangerous than ever, thanks to the west, by Nabila Ramdani

"What UN Resolution 1973 actually called for was an end to “attacks against civilians”, but they are now a daily occurrence."

From July 29, 1914:

"While UN Resolution 1973, the one that gave the green light to military intervention, had by no means authorised regime change, a dead Gaddafi heralded peace, prosperity and, crucially, a “strong and democratic future”, according to Cameron.

How dismal all that sounds today. It was US air force jets flying above Tripoli this week, and their job was to guarantee the safety of their escaping diplomats. British and French subjects were also fleeing in fear of their lives. Even the UN mission was shut down.

Rebel infighting makes almost everywhere unsafe. Assassinations are routine, robbers stalk the roads, while water and electricity supplies are regularly interrupted. Abundant reserves of oil and gas, which had attracted multinational companies to Libya and whose profits helped educate a sizeable middle class, are all going up in smoke – literally. Millions of litres of fuel were set ablaze on Sunday during clashes between rival militias, before another depot was rocketed on Monday. All of this a few miles from Tripoli airport, which is under constant fire
"

In other words, yet another intervention transpired to be based on a crock of shit and failed disastrously, prolonging intolerably the civil war that should have been the business of Libyans and nobody else: "On average, a civil war with interstate intervention was 300% longer than those without. When disaggregated, a civil war with intervention on only one side is 156% longer, while when intervention occurs on both sides the average civil war is longer by an additional 92%. If one of the intervening states was a superpower, a civil war is a further 72% longer; a conflict such as the Angolan Civil War, in which there is two-sided foreign intervention, including by a superpower (actually, two superpowers in the case of Angola), would be 538% longer on average than a civil war without any international intervention."

Get out and stay out. Mind your own business, don't interfere and disastrously prolong other countries civil wars as that will only lead to genocide. Cut back on the military budget that goes to foreign interventions and invest it in the crying needs at home.
posted by VikingSword at 4:31 PM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Civil war had already broken out in Libya ling before western and Qatari jets started bombing. You cant assume things would be better with a shit like Ghaddafi still fighting it out. It is just as likely things would be worse.
posted by humanfont at 6:12 PM on November 26, 2014


Yes, obviously. The point isn't that the West instigated the civil war in Libya, only that they intervened once it was ongoing. We should neither instigate *nor* intervene in civil wars. And yes, one cannot prove things would've be better (or worse) had Ghadaffi been allowed to remain as part of that political landscape, but it certainly is false to claim that "just as likely things would be worse". No, not as likely at all - the exact opposite is the case. That is a statistically provable fact - the data does indicate that outside state intervention tends to prolong civil wars, particularly if a superpower is involved, by substantial margins - see the quote in my previous post, and if you follow that, there is a citation as needed. "Just as likely", dealing with likelihood, is a statistical claim. That claim can be put to the test, and your assertion is wrong. With the U.S. intervention, being a superpower, the odds are much higher that the intervention (plus other outside states) indeed prolonged the civil war in Libya.
posted by VikingSword at 6:30 PM on November 26, 2014


I think that you are over-reaching a bit with the statistical analysis VikingSword. The length of a civil war is only one metric of 'things are/are not better' - out of what would seem to be a huge number of complex factors. A short war can be really bad if the wrong guys win. Its also not even one of the factors for why civil wars start cited in the article you linked to. Which it seems like it would be hard to ignore if you are trying to compare outcomes. To me this is part of the problem I alluded to above, you can think what you like about what is the most humane/most effective strategy to achieve what you think you desire, but people thinking they know what is going to happen have a way of being proven wrong.

As it has been said: 'No plan survives first contact with the enemy.'
posted by sfts2 at 6:52 PM on November 26, 2014


Though it runs very counter to my political instincts in general, it's impossible for me to be against all American intervention in Syria, because of Kobane. The YPG is a libertarian socialist, feminist organization that, even if they aren't perfect, is nevertheless exemplary when it comes to their tolerance for others and respect for human well-being compared to just about every other player in the Syrian conflict. ISIS is bent on their destruction, and has thrown a great deal of force against them in Kobane in an attempt to eliminate them. If not for US airstrikes (as well as the supply drop to the YPG) Kobane very likely would have fallen- and then ISIS would have massacred the Kurdish defenders of the city in the most brutal way possible, sold the women into sex slavery, and ended what I think is one of the most hopeful and promising experiments the left has seen in a long time. It would have been hideous in every single way, and in that specific case, I feel that there is no way that it can be argued that the outcome of non-intervention by the US would have been better than what did happen- particularly considering that none of the airstrikes around Kobane have caused civilian casualties. As it is, at this point it looks most likely that the YPG will ultimately prevail in Kobane, and there is no doubt that the US has played a considerable role in turning things around there.

I don't think the US has been a force for good in the Middle East, by any means, and I think any US attempts at trying to "nation build" or to direct the destiny of Syria as a whole are likely to be rooted in self-serving motives and to end in disaster. But as far as Kobane goes, well, I just see it as being something akin to the Soviets giving support to Mandela. The Soviet Union was an imperialist power, they had their own agenda, that agenda wasn't a good one and had much more to do with countering the rival imperialist power than it did with any concern for human well-being- nevertheless, in that particular case it aligned with the good of the world, and I think it's for the best that they did support the ANC. The same, I feel, with the US's actions in Kobane, as delayed and hesitant as they've been.

Furthermore, ISIS is an expansionist, genocidal organization- they are genuinely something significantly worse than anything that's come along in the Middle East in a long time. Leaving them entirely alone IMO will have dire consequences from a humanitarian standpoint- and also given that the US is a signatory to the UN Genocide Convention, there's a strong argument that we actually do have an obligation under international law to stop ISIS. Doing so doesn't necessarily translate to military intervention, but I think it would be basically impossible to stop ISIS from expanding and committing genocide without applying military force at certain points.

What I would favor is basically a slightly more involved version of Chelsea Manning's plan, linked above- the main differences are that I'd favor throwing our full support behind the YPG and the Iraqi Kurds, and would use military force against ISIS in certain circumstances, as in the case of Kobane- but no attempts at nation building, or taking sides in the Syrian civil war between Assad and the rebels. (The YPG is basically neutral in the larger conflict and has no intention of ruling over all of Syria.) In general, I think the best outcome from a humanitarian standpoint (and it's likely to still be pretty grim, but it's likely the best that's possible at this point) would probably be arrived at that way- complete non-intervention would almost certainly mean that ISIS would take over a great deal more land and commit genocide against the religious minorities there (along with many, many other atrocities), while any serious attempt to steer the destiny of Syria will likely backfire horribly in all the obvious ways. I don't have much hope that the US will do this, but IMO Obama actually is coming closer to doing that than I would have guessed- I'm not exactly delighted by his Middle East policy, but in many ways it's better than I would have expected.
posted by a louis wain cat at 7:44 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Libya has a fundamental problem: its oil fields are pockets of great and easily-extractable wealth in a country that is otherwise poor in natural resources. Any civil war or insurgency will revolve around control of those oil fields, which means that a stable country can only be achieved once they have been secured. Even then, the oil fields will represent a concrete and relatively easy goal for future insurgencies: capture the oil fields and you're halfway to capturing the country.

By its very nature, then, a stable Libyan government is going to focus more on the defense of these assets than on the well-being of the country generally. I don't think we'll ever see a nicey-nicey liberal republic in Libya, for the simple reason that liberal republics aren't good at keeping down insurgencies. I think everyone here would agree that such a government couldn't rely on international support, either.

One thing that the international community could do is embargo Libyan oil. Libya's geography and location would make it easier than embargoing oil from other Middle Eastern countries. Armed interdiction is probably cheaper and safer than dropping bombs; if we accept the moral cost of imposing a repressive junta (or dictatorship) then we could impose such a government quite easily: only the recognised regime gets to export oil; all imports are authorised by the interdicting powers. It would need to be watertight, though: rebellions don't cost much, and insurgents can afford to sell their oil cheaply. That's part of the problem in Syria, and it is (I think) part of the reason Turkey has been so ambivalent about its approach to the Syrian civil war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:56 PM on November 26, 2014


It is not ours. People say America's this America's interests, why did we start believing this nonsense? I know very clearly where my country lies. Let us keep our stuff there. Agree if you travel or do business outside our boundaries, you do so at your own risk.
posted by Oyéah at 8:01 PM on November 26, 2014


People say America's this America's interests, why did we start believing this nonsense?

When a couple of our skyscrapers fell to the ground and about 3,000 of our people died. And we found out that there are nasty people out there who want to kill us all, and don't care where they do it.

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” -- Leon Trotsky
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:18 PM on November 26, 2014


There is no mess in the middle east except we have armed them.

A rough comparison would be if we went into Ferguson right now with tanks and advisors and said, "Go get 'em," and then stand back and decry what a mess it is.

The ME is full of mercenaries, all waiting for someone to give them directions to a fat paycheck. Yeah, the place is a nightmare a long time in the making. Pepetual war causes extreme dysfunction. Iran actually looks stable, but we can't what, treat them as a sovereign nation? They did break up with the Pahalavi family and it took some radical maneuvers to make their new nation.

I have no use for their segregated societies, as a woman I don't appreciate it that we spend our tax dollars there .
posted by Oyéah at 8:19 PM on November 26, 2014


A bunch of Saudis allegedly took down two buldings, then we went to the wrong country to remedy the problem. Maybe we should have just bombed a couple of Saudi buildings and called it good, but nooo we have been bleeding for oil revenues since. I hold that 9/11 was the gun used in the largest, ongoing robbery in history. War is just business a usual fpr the people who think up reasons for it.

The writer of this article tries to validate his views by saying he had good interpreters, and posting photos of a sniper's nest probably in the Green Zone. This kind of posture, the professional warrior, the ME is full of this exact guy on both sides. Ridiculous, dark, nonsense, the manly art of war and the beliefs that excuse it.
posted by Oyéah at 8:33 PM on November 26, 2014


So it looks like indeed Libyans do think that it was better under the old devil Ghadaffi by a ratio greater than 2:1, but were optimistic about the following 3 years. That contention therefore is exactly correct: the vast majority of Libyans DO think it was better under Ghadaffi.

This is not the contention. The contention is do Libyans think the country is better than it would have been if Gaddaffi were still in power NOW after completing or continuing his genocide. Under those conditions I think it is highly unlikely Libyans would have seen their future as brightly. Certainly Syrians do not.

it certainly is false to claim that "just as likely things would be worse". No, not as likely at all - the exact opposite is the case. That is a statistically provable fact - the data does indicate that outside state intervention tends to prolong civil wars

I appreciate the attempt to use hard data to analyse these problems, but I think this is flawed in at least three ways:

1) Whether or not a country is worse after a civil war is not just a function of how long the civil war lasted but of the outcome of the civil war. Angola is a perfect example of this. Maybe the war would have been much shorter had Cuba not intervened. However, Cuban intervention ended brutal Western colonialism in Africa and was essential in ending Apartheid in South Africa and bringing Mandela into power. The question has to be, "would it be better if the Civil War were shorter but colonialism and Apartheid persisted?" And, I think the answer has to be no.

2) No Western intervening does not mean zero foreign intervention. In Syria the intervention of Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey has far outweighed Western intervention by far. Looking at the length of previous civil wars with and without any foreign intervention, isn't very meaningful when looking at Syria as the primary foreign intervention would have remained.

3) Just because someone somewhere has labelled a conflict a "civil war," does not make it directly comparable to Libya or Syria. Infact, Syria is probably a great example of what Libya may have looked like now had Gaddaffi been allowed to continue his genocide in the same manner as Assad. There wasn't as much direct support of the rebels as there was in Syria, but I think it is a good that jihadists would have taken control of the Libyan rebellion just as they did in Syria, and Libya would look an awful lot like Syria right now: Hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

Gaddafi has gone but Libya is more dangerous than ever, thanks to the west

Again this is the wrong comparison. It is not whether Libya is more dangerous now than before Gaddaffi started slaughtering, torturing, and raping civilians that is at question. The question is is Libya more dangerous now than if Gaddaffi were still continuing the slaughter, or was in some post-genocide stage after a less prolonged conflict? Let's look at what was happening in Libya before the UN intervened, from Wikipedia:
(Gaddafi) referred to the rebels as "cockroaches" and "rats", and vowed not to step down and to cleanse Libya house by house until the insurrection was crushed.[155][156][157] ...Gaddafi said that he had not yet ordered the use of force, and threatened that "everything will burn" when he did.

In Tripoli, "death squads" of mercenaries and Revolutionary Committees members reportedly patrolled the streets and shot people who tried to take the dead off the streets or gather in groups.[173] The International Federation for Human Rights concluded on 24 February that Gaddafi was implementing a scorched earth strategy. The organization stated that "It is reasonable to fear that he has, in fact, decided to largely eliminate, wherever he still can, Libyan citizens who stood up against his regime and furthermore, to systematically and indiscriminately repress civilians. These acts can be characterized as crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."[174]
We also should compare the state of Libya now to what it could have been had the UN, Western countries, and the African Union provided better support than they did. I think we have to move beyond simplistic analysis like "intervention always makes things worse." Humans have been able to solve many social, agricultural, and industrial problems that seemed insurmountable, and we should be more optimistic about how we can stop violent conflict and thereby provide the means for millions of suffering people to live peaceful, happier, more productive lives. In the case of Libya, it seems to me our involvement should have occurred much sooner and lasted much longer to counter the tribalism that took hold of the country and to oppose the jihadists. Maybe there is an argument to be made that the West should have tried to do more to prevent the uprising to begin with or to prevent Gaddafi from cracking down, but I'm not sure what they could have done to prevent it.

Contrary to general MetaFilter consensus, I don't think anyone in the US government really believes endless conflict, civil war, genocide, and US military involvement in the ME is in its best interests. Yes, you could argue that defense companies benefit from it, but I think it is ridiculous to believe that defense industry profits are a primary motivation of our foreign policy in the ME.

An end to the civil wars in the ME and their replacement with economic growth, more education, and more freedom is in itself a primary interest of the US. It reduces the risk of the US being dragged down in these endless conflicts which could potentially even start WWIII, and it would be a benefit to the global economy. But moreover, it is in the world's interest that millions of people aren't being enslaved, raped, murdered and tortured. The fundamental goal of our foreign policy should be a global hegemony of human rights and international cooperation including norms for solving conflict without violence. It is probably only with such a global hegemony that we will be able tackle the big problems facing us such as global warming, water shortage, and other resource shortages with minimal suffering, and to achieve global disarmament and demilitarization.

There is no mess in the middle east except we have armed them.

The US is not the only country that sells arms in the ME. If you look at the weapons being used in the current conflicts, most of them are not USian. The ones that are were either stolen by Daesh or are being used by governments heavily under our influence. And this is can be a good thing. If they are dependent on the US for military and economic support, the US is better able to prevent them from using military force by withdrawing arms (and aid) and putting conditions on its use.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:13 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I contend that that Iraq’s Sunnis must create a legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:39 PM on November 26, 2014


Hall's piece is pure propaganda wrtten to give a Mitt Romney type, talking points. The propaganda twists and turns and man poses are blatant The piece reads like intimate porn for war fetishists.

The ME borders are false constructs. The ME has to man up and decide what it wants. The men have to figure whats in it for them. The women are of no importance to them even with Erdogon's nice talk about their delicacy. We stir the stuff up for our gain then complain when we lose our illusions of control. We have been played by the ME and we need to go. Then we use rather enewable energy, take care of our own, and go back to "Don't tread on me."

Why is it so difficult to understand people everywhere don't want to be like us. They have their own ways. The special interests in this nation bully in my name, I don't like it.

One person in this thread talked about armed,mad, men who hate us, want to kill us. I live in a state where you are more likely to be killed by the police than drug dealing activities or gang violence, even domestic violence.

Tens of thousands of Americans die each year, from flu. It is a better deal than war. You often die in your own bed.
posted by Oyéah at 10:12 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is possible that a shorter civil war might be more brutal than a longer one. And yes, a short civil war might ultimately have more victims down the line than a longer one, if the wrong party wins. And yes, an intervention by a foreign power in a civil war might put the right party in power. All manner of unusual and less usual things might happen. Congratulations - that is called "statistics". Yes, it's trivially true that just because something has higher odds of happening doesn't mean the less usual scenario cannot happen - just that the odds are the more common scenario is more likely to occur . And so too here. A longer civil war is likely to have more victims than a shorter one - that's statistically the more common scenario, by far. And meddling by foreign powers more often put the wrong party in power than the right one chosen by the people. And so on. Very odd things can happen, and one can always dream up scenarios that are possible - after all, two-headed cows are born too. But in the absence of definitive data, to proclaim the less usual scenario as the more usual, is to simply contradict the very meaning of odds calculation. Not having certainty about a specific outcome is not a license to then claim that because there is no certainty therefore the less likely scenario is just as likely or more likely to occur. That's the spirit in which I cited the statistical data about the duration of civil wars. None of us can prove what would have happened had Libya been free of foreign intervention with Ghaddafi defending his power. In the absence of proof, I go with the best one can do: statistical odds, which indicate that civil wars are significantly prolonged by foreign, particularly superpower, interventions.

As to the outcome of the civil war in Libya (or Syria) being better or worse... two points. The first, is that, with all due respect, it really is none of our business - or anyone's business - it is for the Libyans to decide. Second, why do we imagine that the outcome of that war without foreign intervention would have been worse than it is now? There is absolutely no reason to suppose that, and more importantly, it's exactly the same mistake as was made in the immediate aftermath of Ghaddafi's murder - the assumption that somehow things have been settled (with a fair amount of premature triumphalism by the interventionists) - it still has not settled and in fact looks set to continue deteriorating dramatically, with who knows how very much worse to come. The final reckoning is far from done.

That btw. is another danger of intervention by a foreign power to back the "right" party - the civil war has not truly ended, it has merely been interrupted to resume with greater pent up force than before. The conflict needs to come to a resolution on its own, that reflects the balance of power in that society, and not something that exists only with the thumb of a foreign power on the scales. It is also deeply disempowering and injurious to the political development of the country to have a result imposed upon it, and from that grow further complications as that foreign imposition chafes. Imagine if Britain backed the Union in our Civil War and put a quick and early end to that conflict - you can be quite sure that this result would not stand politically at all, being essentially a foreign imposition, and in time the South would erupt on a far worse scale, the political evolution and work not having been done. It would have been a disaster that could have merely allowed the interrupted Civil War to explode with greater ferocity later on.

"Other countries do it" - Russia, Iran, whoever, meddling in Syria or the ME... is this an argument from "the other guy is doing it, so let me get in on the action"? There is no obligation to jump from a bridge because Johnny is doing it. Let those mistakes be upon them. We need not join them in making those same mistakes or committing the same crimes. If the Russians have learned nothing from Afghanistan, let them learn those lessons all over again in another place. Do we too need to repeat classes? Are we so dull? Apparently so, since the lessons of Vietnam needed to be re-learned in Iraq. A truly smart leadership learns from other's mistakes, and not merely your own. I guess it was too much to ask for us to learn from the Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan, for we stepped into it with great gusto ourselves - Afghanistan. Afghanistan... one would imagine, after observing the mistake of the other guy, and then experiencing the same mistake oneself, even the dullest student would learn the lesson by now, but one would be wrong:

"In the case of Libya, it seems to me our involvement should have occurred much sooner and lasted much longer to counter the tribalism that took hold of the country and to oppose the jihadists."

This is the "longer and harder" doubling down that has been the bane of those who refuse to re-evaluate a failing strategy. It has no political allegiance. We've seen those mistakes made by neocons and by leftist interventionists. We've seen it in Vietnam, where the military leadership kept assuring us that with another 10,000, 20,000, or 30,000, or 50,000, and just another bombing campaign, and another pacification mission victory is just behind that hill. We poured buckets of blood and thousands of lives (millions if we count both sides) into that strategy, all in the name of doubling down. The more we failed, the more we committed to it in a perverse sunk costs fallacy. It's the hallmark of all fanaticism and why it is immune to the lessons of reality - for the failure is merely an indication that the strategy has not been applied diligently and purely enough and we need to do it more, more and more - longer and harder.

Here is the reality: we had no vital national interests in Indochina. We had no vital national interests in Afghanistan. We were not defending our shores from the armies of Ghadaffi, Saddam Hussein or Assad. These were wars of choice, the arrogant and short-sighted conviction that we can engineer other societies to our wishes with no mandate from the population and proclaiming to all that we had the moral right to do so and the societies in question would greet us with flowers and servile smiles.

And what of that "longer and harder" intervention advocacy in Libya and Syria (notably by ostensible leftists such as Rice and Power)? This is the context of bringing in the object lesson of Afghanistan.

Did we try long and hard enough there? It's certainly been just about the longest in our history (with the possible exception of Vietnam) - is that long enough? No? How much longer, and how much harder? How much of a groundswell is there in any country for a massive new commitment in Afghanistan? And we have clearly failed there - the Taliban has not been eliminated no matter how long and hard we've tried. What makes us think we'd have any more luck in Libya (or Syria, or Iraq or?). The brutal reality - as in Vietnam - is that in any civil war you can find a party that is grateful for your support (South Vietnamese), but by the very nature of such a conflict immediately brands you an eternal enemy of the other side (North Vietnam). There are those who support us in Afghanistan - and there are those who support the Taliban. Unless there is clear-cut overwhelming support of the population - as there is in cases where a foreign power is being ejected (as in cases of liberation - we liberated Kuwait), you are bound to be bogged down in a never-ending conflict. They'll almost always prevail, for their horizons are much longer than ours and they can afford to make sacrifices for longer than we are willing to pay the price - because ultimately they have no choice, and nowhere else to live, while we can take our toys and go home.

This is why we will not win any protracted guerrilla conflict in the ME. We are widely hated there - pockets of support notwithstanding. Our interfering in civil wars there is not in anybody's interest.
posted by VikingSword at 11:31 PM on November 26, 2014


How can the U.S. get involved in Syria without taking sides between IS and Assad? This is like a Stalin v Hitler situation here. You're not going to get rid of both at once.
posted by moorooka at 12:06 AM on November 27, 2014


Yes, it is possible that a shorter civil war might be more brutal than a longer one ... But in the absence of definitive data, to proclaim the less usual scenario as the more usual, is to simply contradict the very meaning of odds calculation

Of course that's not at all what I, or I think anyone else, said. You have to look at what happens after the war not just during it. For example if the war in Angola were shorter but brutal colonialism and apartheid continued, it would not have been a better outcome. Likewise, if the American Civil war ended a year earlier but slavery continued for another hundred years, it would have been a worse outcome. If Gaddafi had finished his genocide quickly and then proceeded to severely oppress his opposition, it would not be better than the situation in Libya today. The length of the war is not a sufficiently useful metric.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose that.

The reason is in Gaddafi's own expressed intention of committing genocide as quoted above, and in his acting on that intention before the intervention. And in the comparison with Syria where UN intervention did not take place.

"Other countries do it"

No, I was saying you can't use the supposed statistical relationship between the length of a "civil war" and its "foreign intervention" as a factor in the US's intervention in Syria since foreign intervention was already inevitable in the very fact that Syria is a client state of Russia and Iran and the jihadists were in themselves mainly a foreign intervention.

This is why we will not win any protracted guerrilla conflict in the ME. We are widely hated there - pockets of support notwithstanding. Our interfering in civil wars there is not in anybody's interest.


Defeating or at least preventing the spread of Salafi Jihadists is in our and basically everyone's best interests. Ending the conflict in Syria, stopping the endless atrocities there, and returning refugees to homes is in the interests of the victims and the entire region. To say foreign powers should not intervene to stop genocide because that might interfere with the natural progression of a nation-state, or whatever, is morally bankrupt.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:54 AM on November 27, 2014


"Ending the conflict in Syria". Makes it sound so easy! But who to target first - the genocidal jihadist insurgency? or their mortal enemy, the genocidal secular dictator?

Either way I'm sure that the plucky little Free Syrian Army, with enough US air support, will be able to knock one of the two sides off and then deftly spin around and whack the other one. Right?
posted by moorooka at 3:21 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Given a choice between a brutal secular dictator and a jihadist theocracy, I'll take the brutal secularist almost every time.
posted by sfts2 at 4:07 AM on November 27, 2014


I just don't understand how people fall for the same bullshit over and over and over again. The U.S. does not go to war for altruistic reasons and never has. If you think we are ever going to war to help people, you're a fool.
posted by empath at 5:01 AM on November 27, 2014


empath, without starting a holy war on Thanksgiving, what is the evidence that you would present to support such a sweeping statement?
posted by sfts2 at 6:01 AM on November 27, 2014


The Long Autumn Of John McCain
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on November 27, 2014


“Altruism will be strongly favored if it leads groups to win wars,” said Sam Bowles, a Santa Fe Institute economist and institutional theorist, and author of the study, published Thursday in Science. “That would counteract the way that selfish individuals usually dominate the altruistic ones in their groups.”



"readiness to intervene militarily abroad for altruistic purposes, even if it is not directly tied to the national interest.

For example, in September 1999 Mark Penn asked:

Which is closer to your view of the proper role of the US in the world?...The US sometimes needs to get involved in regional conflicts that do not directly threaten US interests, because we are often the only country able to maintain world peace and prevent humanitarian disasters such as Kosovo and East Timor, OR The US should only act to protect our own national interests because it is not our responsibility to keep peace around the world."
posted by clavdivs at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2014


3) one does not maintain peace by fighting a war.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on November 27, 2014


OR The US should only act to protect our own national interests

I had a hard time parsing your comment, but wouldn't "national interest" also count as "altruism," in Bowles sense? Self interest only adheres to the individual, not to a nation.

Even if you believe empathy and sympathy are just an expression of a bloody Altruism Gene formed by the advantages it provided in small group combat - based on Evo Psych computer models, or whatever; that the only legitimate motive for anything is rational self-interest, and therefore anyone who thinks they believe genocide should be stopped for "moral" reasons has just deluded themselves; there is still an argument for intervention in the ME: anyone who has a personal interest in global stability and a thriving global economy, which is most people, has a self-interest in a stable Middle East. Daesh, the war in Syria, and the behavior of Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and others are a serious threat to that stability.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:04 PM on November 27, 2014


Hey sorry about no links that is on me but at least I "".
Ok the first paragraph is from Wired, "altruisms bloody roots"

The second was from this http://www.americans-world.org/digest/overview/us_role/nat_interest.cfm

Just some material about altruism and war which is like "he'll see the big board" type of contradiction.

But I would posit the failure to use a rapid deployment force indirectly pro longed the Rwandan genocide.

Well GE that is quite a mouthful so take it up with them.
IMO duh their is nothing altruistic about war. I would argue individuals altruistic views had a role in war. Does an individual make war on a nation? No, not unless they have a robot Air Force.
posted by clavdivs at 4:31 PM on November 27, 2014


For example, for altruistic reasons should the allies have bombed death camps. The rail lines were bombed but not the camps.
posted by clavdivs at 4:37 PM on November 27, 2014


Well yeah, in small group combat with tools fashioned from the river side, altruistic "reasoning" could have formed under the sole reason of self interest.
The end result benefited others in directly. A cave drawing was made and all we're glad the evil human flesh eaters were defeated.
posted by clavdivs at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2014


Golden Eternity, you're talking in generalisations and platitudes. If you're seriously advocating intervention to "stabilise Syria" then you need to pick one of two sides in the conflict: Assad or Islamic State. Both can be called "genocidal", one moreso than the other. That is the specific dilemma that the U.S. faces. Protecting a haven for the Syrian Kurds is one thing, but it's delusional to think you can support Syrian regime-change and defeating the Islamic State simultaneously. This is the corner that Obama has painted himself into.
posted by moorooka at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2014


Cambodia would be another good example of the U.S. 360* foreign policy altruism.
posted by clavdivs at 6:55 PM on November 27, 2014


I don't think we have to pick a side between Assad and Islamic State. There are hundreds of factions in this civil war. Our best bet is to focus on weakening IS and Al Nusra. Then gather up the tribes and factions as they abandon these groups.

Hopefully we can then cut a deal to exit Assad from Syria through peace talks.
posted by humanfont at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2014


This is a very interesting conversation, and I have admit that I have no idea what clavdivs is talking about.

empath, I'd have to suggest that your last point upthread is idealistic wishful thinking and divorced so much from the world we live in as to be nonsense. Sometimes, meaning almost all the time and in almost all the wars that I know much about - say in the last 75 years or post WW2, a third party was killing people in droves and destabilizing markets or regions to subjugate populations and that is the main reason that the West gets involved. Its also nonsense to suggest that your comment should be applied only to the US. Now that is not to reduce my sense that all of these issues are so much more complex and nuanced than either the original article or the resulting comments allow. I don't know how anyone who is not on the ground with access to complete intelligence can even hope to sort this out with confidence. Facile arguments and idealistic wishes aside, often state or insurgent actors killing droves can support both altruistic (we must intervene to save lives) or commercial interests (we must intervene to maintain stability or oil supply or orderly markets) as a motivator. The idea that either Obama's actions led to the Syrian civil war or that IF the Middle East was a reasonably stable humane environment we would be engaged militarily there doesn't even pass the smell test. It seems to me the facts would support that GENERALLY in order for any of the Western military powers to use military action, it takes a both humanitarian and commercial or military (allies/geopolitical) factors to even begin to create the political will to wage war.
posted by sfts2 at 7:41 PM on November 27, 2014


The U.S. has destabilized plenty of stable countries with covert action. I've been to a few countries where the U.S. armed paramilitaries and armies that massacred innocent people. Nothing like someone talking about their family being murdered by a U.S. backed death squad to open your eyes to what U.S. intervention means in a civil war. You don't even need to look at the Middle East - look at guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, chile, Argentina.
posted by empath at 9:01 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Homunculus wrote: There are hundreds of factions in this civil war. Our best bet is to focus on weakening IS and Al Nusra. Then gather up the tribes and factions as they abandon these groups.

I don't think we can assume that there is a nucleus of brave liberals who are fighting a broad-based war of self-defense. The groups still standing are probably sectarian, evil, or both. In any event, you can't very well "gather up" groups unless you can supply, support, and defend them. We have no way of doing anything except the first (via air-dropped supplies) and perhaps the second, in a very limited way.

A substantial effort to rebuild the country would need "boots on the ground". It would effectively be an invasion of Syria and it would undoubtedly be opposed by Syria and its supporters and allies. Such an invasion might try to go around the Syrian forces, but that would require the support of Lebanon (already deeply divided over IS), Turkey (already non-cooperative), Jordan (ditto), Iraq (again ...), or Israel (great way to unite the Islamic factions). At present, it's not possible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on November 27, 2014


I don't think we have to pick a side between Assad and Islamic State. There are hundreds of factions in this civil war. Our best bet is to focus on weakening IS and Al Nusra. Then gather up the tribes and factions as they abandon these groups.

Hopefully we can then cut a deal to exit Assad from Syria through peace ta


Super unrealistic plan. Kinda like saying you could beat Hitler in 1942 without cooperating with the Russians. There are many sides in the Syrian conflict, but only one of these sides has strength comparable to the combined resources of I.S. and Nusra and unfortunately that's Assad. (And, like, vice versa.)

Putin: "Told you so!"
Obama: "Shut up!"
posted by moorooka at 11:03 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Homunculus wrote:...

I hereby claim all of humanfont's comments for myself and my heirs.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 PM on November 27, 2014


Damn! I guessed wrong. What are the odds?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:42 PM on November 27, 2014




... in almost all the wars that I know much about - say in the last 75 years or post WW2, a third party was killing people in droves and destabilizing markets or regions to subjugate populations and that is the main reason that the West gets involved.

Eh? Korea, Taliban Afghanistan, Iraq 1, OK. Hardly any of the others. Most certainly not Vietnam or Iraq 2, or any of the colonial wars like Algeria.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:41 AM on November 28, 2014


A third party invervention clause?
posted by clavdivs at 6:53 AM on November 28, 2014


As I tried to say above, any comment on this topic that has the words 'certainly' almost immediately lacks credibility. I also fail to see commercial interests at the heart of any of those conflicts. I don't buy the 'oil' rationale for a significant part of runup to any of the more recent ME conflicts. These areas do not represent significant markets for the US. Maybe the core of it is that I don't think that the fact that one disagrees with the philosophy or religious viewpoints of a group of people, doesn't change the 'altruism' of trying to change that peoples viewpoints. Isn't if basically doing something that does not result in maximizing ones practical self-interest, regardless of which side you look at it from. eg. I think that the concept of jihad (although reprehensible to me) is an altruistic concept. Maybe I am too focused on semantics here.

Bottom line? I think most of the viewpoints presented here are too simplistic and folks only looking through the lens of their own worldview and not enough credence given to the altruism of 'the other side.'
posted by sfts2 at 7:04 AM on November 28, 2014


"Isn't if basically doing something that does not result in maximizing ones practical self-interest, regardless of which side you...an altruistic concept."

Depends on reciprocity.
posted by clavdivs at 7:23 AM on November 28, 2014


A realistic plan has to be based on a realistic assessment of ISIS. In my opinion comaparing ISIS to WWII Germany is not a realistic analogy.

I don't expect there to be any brave liberals or ardent secularists who we can sweep up into a new anti-Assad coalition. I do think you will find trbal groups who are interested in protecting their people and don't like the fanaticism of IS. There will also be groups that adhere to a fairly rigid view of Sunni Islam, but never the less hate Assad more and are not so anti-western as to take the opportunity to distance themselves from Al Qaeda in exchange for our support.
posted by humanfont at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2014


If jihad, by definition, is a religious duty, altruistic acts are a part of that definition. Nothing new but altruism,by its definition, is no reciprocity is required for the third party who benefits from said altruistic act. Is jihad really the better example of altruism?

"In Islam, the concept 'īthār' (altruism) is the notion of 'preferring others to oneself'." That's from wiki.

Do you think ISIS is altruistic?
I would bet no. I don't really know perhaps someone else has the correct take on altruism and it's application to war.
posted by clavdivs at 9:25 AM on November 28, 2014


ISIS isn't Hitler - the comparison is just that the only two sides with a hope of winning are both "baddies". these other sides exist but they don't have a hope in hell of beating either let alone both. Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State, is under attack from Assad right now, which the U.S. is condemning for its brutality, while the U.S. has been attacking the same place themselves (albeit with more discrimination). On some days the U.S. statements mirror what I.S. is saying, on other days they mirror what Assad is saying. Fine, both sides are evil, but they are the only two sides that can win. Opposing both is, in its way, supporting both.
posted by moorooka at 1:57 PM on November 28, 2014


"Moscow ready to sacrifice Assad, says opposition official".

I'd be more persuaded by a headline that read:

"Moscow ready to sacrifice Assad, says Moscow."
posted by moorooka at 2:01 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Based on everything I've heard, much of which has been investigated thoroughly by @Brown_Moses and others, Assad hasn't just been a little less descriminating and accurate than the coalition airforce, he has directly targeted and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians. Thousands with chemical weapons. Recently, this is being done by sending out aircraft in the early hours of the morning to suburban civilian areas of cities outside of the direct conflict zone and dropping barrel bombs on highly populated buildings or neighborhoods.

The coalition is doing nothing to stop it. Some suggest a NFZ. Maybe it would make sense to enforce a NFZ on the ethnic cleansing without interfering too much with the defense of Damascus and Alawite territory.

Syria is extremely difficult and complicated, but it is critical to try to end the conflict because of the potential for more suffering within Syria, the potential for it to continue to spread to nearby countries like Jordan, and the possibility of it remaining a safe haven for Daesh.

At some point maybe the coalition and the UN could impose a stalemate with DMZ's enforced in the major conflict zones, or something. Then work on creating cantons within the Sunni areas for more "moderate" tribes and factions of the FSA that can be effectively defended against Daesh and Nusra.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:38 PM on November 28, 2014


History suggests that the various factions in the Syrian civil war have not been stable. Power has ebbed and flowed between factions and leaders with some fairly dramatic reversals. The notion that the only possible victors would be Assad or ISIS does not seem realistic in light of this history. Even with help from Russia, Iran and extra troops from Hezbollah Assad has struggled to maintain a stalemate. The entire world is going after ISIS. They won't be around for long.

The Turks, Saudis and other Gulf states are not going to let Assad defeat the Sunni groups. There will need to be a negotiated agreement to end this madness. That agreement will include Assad giving up power to some kind of unity government.
posted by humanfont at 3:09 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


So "the coalition" is going to defend Daesh territory from Assad while fighting Daesh, and defend Assad territory from Daesh while fighting Assad. And with a bit of luck our imaginary army can "impose a stalemate" on Syria. Great idea. Your armchair-strategist certificate is in the mail.

Sorry but like it or not, Daesh is the biggest winner of any campaign against Assad. And Assad is the biggest winner of any campaign against Daesh. And waging a campaign against both in the hope that you can "impose a stalemate", (presumably a permanent stalemate) sounds like is a great way to make a fucked up situation even more fucked up. Get real.
posted by moorooka at 3:15 PM on November 28, 2014


The Turks, Saudis and other Gulf states patrons of ISIS are not going to let Assad defeat the Sunni groups. But they'd be quite happy with a "permanent stalemate" between a rump Syria, a rump Iraq, and a client caliphate.
posted by moorooka at 3:20 PM on November 28, 2014


presumably a permanent stalemate

No, I was thinking of the eventual formation of autonomous regions that could co-exist relatively free of conflict, with the help of coalition airpower used to help enforce a ceasefire. These would form the basis for a future political solution within Syria, or a redrawing of borders. It would probably have to include the acceptance of Islamist regions, probably even including moderate jihadists like Islamic Front. It would ideally involve an agreement between the US, Russia, Turkey, and Iran sanctified by the UN. Absent such an agreement, the US could work to create the conditions for one, and maybe this could involve putting an end to some of the barrel bombing and preventing major catastrophes like a fall of Aleppo to Assad or a fall of Damascus to the "rebels."
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:45 PM on November 28, 2014


Absent such an agreement, the US could work to create the conditions for one...

By defending Assad territory from Daesh while fighting Assad and defending Daesh territory from Assad while fighting Daesh. Just support both sides, er, I mean, oppose both sides, of a brutal civil war, and then maybe after twenty years of carnage they'll be sufficiently worn out that they'll accept the nice new borders we draw for them. Go America.
posted by moorooka at 4:50 PM on November 28, 2014


"It would ideally involve an agreement between the US, Russia, Turkey, and Iran sanctified by the UN. Absent such an agreement, the US could work to create the conditions for one..."

Good lord have we not done enough without a plan that has no hope of even a mediation agreement meanwhile Iran gets the bomb and then what.
posted by clavdivs at 5:17 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, I was thinking of the eventual formation of autonomous regions that could co-exist relatively free of conflict, with the help of coalition airpower used to help enforce a ceasefire.

So the best case scenario is israel/Palestine, then.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2014


Iran can make a bomb in 2-3 years at any time. They have the reactors, raw materials and engineering know how to do it. The only question is their motivation.

On the other hand if Pakistan can have a bomb and still get billions in American aid. If Israel can have the bomb and get billions in aid. Well then why do we care about Iran. Sure they hate the US. They can get in line behind all the other countries that hate us and also have Nukes.

America needs to stop being so afraid of the world. The world isn't going to knock at the door. The world isn't the danger. The USA is the danger. We are the ones who knock.
posted by humanfont at 12:22 PM on November 29, 2014


Reminds me of guns and roses with the Slash idosyncaratic world view.
posted by clavdivs at 12:39 PM on November 29, 2014


Humanfont: there are three states (India, Pakistan, and North Korea) that have a declared nuclear capacity, and one (Israel) with a policy of nuclear ambiguity. None of these countries are really in a position to act aggressively towards their neighbours in any substantial way, although for different reasons: the disputes between India and Pakistan are relatively small compared to the cost of a war; Israel doesn't want anything from its neighbours except to be left alone (i.e., it really really doesn't want any more Arab-occupied territory); North Korea knows it can't beat its neighbours. Of these four, we are mostly concerned about North Korea: its leadership may be crazy and goodness knows what will happen if and when it collapses.

Iran is very different. It is a regional superpower with expansionist ambitions. It has an opaque leadership that may be as crazy as North Korea's. Its power structure is also divided, in ways that are hard to comprehend: it's a theocracy, and a parliamentary democracy, and a militarised state. This increases the risk that an internal struggle for power will lead to the use of nuclear weapons, inside or outside Iran.

Iran's expansionism can be seen in the present conflict in Syria, which has become more-or-less a client of Iran; in its activities in Iraq (ditto); and its support of Hezbollah, which has brought Lebanon to the brink of yet another civil war. It sponsors random attacks on Jews across the world (e.g.) and it has been quietly developing substantial ties with governments in South and Central America. So Iran is very different from the four non-NPT nuclear powers: it has substantial ambitions outside its own country; it is presently engaged in "hot" wars, albeit via proxies; and its attacks are driven by obscure religious principles and internal power struggles. The idea of it having nuclear weapons is terrifying.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:44 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well then why do we care about Iran.

Yeah, seriously. Syria has already faced the death and destruction of the equivalent of several nukes. Even if Iran used a nuke in Syria, it would only be incrementally worse than the horror they've already experienced with the accumulated barrel bombing and constant fighting.

If Iran gets the bomb, I wonder if Saudi Arabia and Turkey will follow. I would think they will try. What may make Iran (and Turkey) worse than Pakistan, though, is their possible imperial ambitions. Iran has talked of creating a "Shi'a crescent" throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The AKP in Turkey talk of the inevitable failure of elitist Western style govt. in the Muslim world (Egypt, Fatah) and its replacement with political (Sunni) Islam (Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas). They have heavily supported the MB in every Arab Spring country. I think it will be a big negative for the world if any these regimes become serious nuclear powers, which Iran seems fully capable of doing. Especially considering their absurdist rhetoric and their participation in the Syrian genocide. The Obama administration seems to have botched the negotiations with Iran making this a more prescient possibility.

So the best case scenario is israel/Palestine, then.

Not really, the Palestinian territories are essentially occupied by Israel. The autonomous regions I had in mind would be fully independent. Perhaps similar to the Kurdish region of Iraq during the NFZ. Assad occupying the Sunni territories or vice versa is what I envision would happen if either side "wins" the "civil war," except far more horrific and brutal than anything that could be compared to I/P.

Islamists come out on top in new effort to unify Syrian rebel groups
A review of the names by McClatchy indicated that moderates hold only six or seven of the 17 executive positions.

Hallak also expressed skepticism toward the October document on which the new group, the Revolutionary Command Council, is based, saying it was written to ensure an Islamist government after Assad is toppled.
Sigh.

Thirteen Years Later, What Went Wrong in Afghanistan

Sigh.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


So North Korea sinking a South Korean frigate, shelling a civilian fishing village ajd routine threats to annihilate Japan and South Korea with its nukes were insubstantial threats? Do you have that same view when it comes to occasional rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel?

Pakistani actions in Afghanistan, Kashmere, India and Bangladesh are not the result of an expansionist foreign policy? Have you heard the crazy shit comming from Biwal Bhutto of late?

Israel doesn't want any more arab territory? Yet it continues to bulldoze arab olive groves and build settlements atop them? For that matter look at the current Israeli cabinet and tell me why you think Avi Leiberman is stable and predictable.

And if you want to worry about unpredictable expansionist minded lunatics with the bomb what about Putin. Iran seems like pragmatic pacifists by comparison.
posted by humanfont at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2014


So North Korea sinking a South Korean frigate, shelling a civilian fishing village ajd routine threats to annihilate Japan and South Korea with its nukes were insubstantial threats? Do you have that same view when it comes to occasional rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel?

"Occasional" rocket fire is understating it; I think the total missile count is in the tens of thousands. But yes, when confined to conventional weapons, neither Hamas nor North Korea represent a substantial threat to their neighbours per se. Israel is more worried about (a) another War of Attrition and (b) a war along several fronts simultaneously.

Pakistani actions in Afghanistan, Kashmere, India and Bangladesh are not the result of an expansionist foreign policy?

Kashmir is a disputed area, yes, but it's disputed precisely because it's a province that arguably should have been part of Pakistan to start with. There's no suggestion that Pakistan wants to invade India generally. As for Bangladesh, I'm not sure what you mean: it was originally part of Pakistan but broke away, and I don't think Pakistan is trying to get it back.

Israel doesn't want any more arab territory? Yet it continues to bulldoze arab olive groves and build settlements atop them?

And laughs mercilessly while declawing Palestinian kittens, yes. That's just rhetoric; as far as I know the last settlements were built in the late 90s and were retrospectively legalised in 2012. According to Peace Now they were the first ones legalised since the Sharon government of 1990. I don't think any olive groves were involved; they were all built on State land. Anyway, Israel has been occupying the area since 1967. The parties are negotiating the details of withdrawal; expansion is totally off the cards.

For that matter look at the current Israeli cabinet and tell me why you think Avi Leiberman is stable and predictable.

You know who he is. You know what his party's platform is. You might not agree with his platform, but there you have it. Iran, in contrast, is pretty much opaque. Might Iran decide to annex Iraq? I guess. Where would that decision originate? I have no idea.

And if you want to worry about unpredictable expansionist minded lunatics with the bomb what about Putin.

Yes, I wouldn't want Russia getting nuclear technology either. That horse left the stable seventy years ago.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 PM on November 29, 2014


Is that the same Peace Now that condemned the August decision by the Israeli government to take 900 acres of Palestinian olive groves near Bethlehem by designating them as state land and then opening them up for the construction of a new city? This expands an existing settlement which IIRC is named in Hebrew Root of the Olive Tree. This is the largest land appropriation in 30 years. Perhaps you missed it.
posted by humanfont at 6:49 PM on November 29, 2014


I presume there's only one body called Peace Now, but I didn't see any references to 900 acres of olive groves near Bethlehem. Could you be referring to the land north-west of Gva'ot? It's around 900 acres, but (a) not especially near Bethlehem; (b) didn't actually belong to anyone (hence "state land"); and (c) as far as I can see remarkably free from olive groves - or much else.

What actually happened is that COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the administrative body which under the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is responsible for planning in Area C), was prodded into making a ruling on a rag-tag bunch of land parcels that had been in the "to be surveyed" basket for thirty years or more. Any parties affected had forty-five days to appeal, but I don't know if anyone did. Anyway, I think the fact that Peace Now describes this rather boring and bureaucratic ruling over a comparatively-tiny pocket of land as "unprecedented" should be sufficient proof that Israel isn't expansionist, or at least not on the scale that actual expansionist countries are.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:18 PM on November 29, 2014


The land is described as near Bethlehem by the New York Times, Washington Post, Peace Now and the Jerusalem Post, but if you want we can describe it as adjancent to the Palestinian village of Surif.

The land is over the 1948 armistice line. It was declared state land and confiscated in August in response to the terrible murder of three Israeli teens. See if you take land from random Palestinians it couldn't be defended in Israeli courts, cause you can't just take land from some stranger when someone else commits a crime. However if it is state land then you arn't punishing individual landowners for crimes they had nothing to do with, you are punishing the PLA who can be found culpable. The Palestinian landowners can appeal the administrative ruling that it was state land, but they never prevail. Finally here is a satellite photo via Google maps of some of the many olive groves you will find on the land.

Joe why do you feel the need to pretend? Everyone knows Israel has nukes. Everyone knows they've been confiscating land and creating facts on the ground. Israel may be justified and these elements may be part of a rational defense strategy. Of late these strategies don't appear to be delivering an positive outcome for the state. The Lebanon operation resulted in Hezbollah gaining status as the guys who beat Israel. Now they are running the place. The Gaza operation this summer was a fiasco, with countries lining up to recognize the Palestinian state and nothing of significance achieved. This latest land confiscation stopped the Kerry diplomatic efforts to at least salvage something from the end of the Gaza war. The whole Temple Mount / Harem Es Sharif situation has been a complete clusterfuck. Instead of learning something instead Israel's government is trying to pass a bill making sure Israel is Jewish, just in case the 20% of her citizens who are Arabs were at all confused about how welcome they should feel in their own country.

With these problems and string of bad decisions by her leaders, Israel should be more worried about the next set of self-inflicted wounds instead of some indeterminate threat from a possible Iranian nuke.
posted by humanfont at 9:46 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Palestinian landowners can appeal the administrative ruling that it was state land, but they never prevail.

If you do a Google search you will find many instances when Israeli courts have done just that.

Finally here is a satellite photo via Google maps of some of the many olive groves you will find on the land.

It's hard to tell without an overlay, but I think you've picked one of the spots that has not been declared to be state land. Look at this plan of the gazetted area. Do you see the leftmost patch of red, above and to the left of Surif? It looks like an oncoming crawfish to me: a right claw and a left claw, and two feelers in the middle. Your olive grove (if that's what it is) is in the white patch between the rightmost claw and the right-hand feeler, and it's marked by a black dot showing from the line of the road underneath. You can see it on Google Maps here. This is getting a bit data-wonky, though. I think it's sufficient to point out that the many Israeli NGOs devoted to documenting this sort of thing do not appear to have identified your olive grove, even though they'd normally be all over a personally identifiable injustice like this.

Joe why do you feel the need to pretend?

There's really no need to be offensive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:20 AM on November 30, 2014


The way you spin is offensive, Joe. Most people who are this involved and aware are doing this stuff for their job, and here you are doing it as a hobby!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:06 AM on November 30, 2014


I hope professionals would do their own research, and not rely on Google, the way I do. I don't think refutation should be described as putting a spin on things, though. It's quite the opposite; showing that things actually are less dramatic and extraordinary than their representation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:06 AM on November 30, 2014


[This isn't an I/P thread. Please don't do this.]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:35 AM on November 30, 2014


But Taz... our argument over the existence of olive groves within 900 acres of disputed land in Israel-Palestine was the key by which we would finally come to a common understanding not only of the P-I conflict but the multiple conflicts in the modern Mid East. Sadly the moment has passed. Decades hence we will see this as one of those moments in history when we might of escaped tragedy. You are like that heavy conference room table that saved Hitler from the assassins bomb in WWII.
posted by humanfont at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


My eyes are inexorably drawn to Humanfont's penultimate word and its missing apostrophe. Should it go before or after the "s"? The hypothesised apostrophe hangs before me in liminal space, a dark teardrop revolving silently. Is it a sniper's bullet? Is it a black olive dropping from an ancient tree? The world itself spins around the apostrophe and the choices that we make.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:12 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


‘Hell is never far away’ - a medic risking her life for Aleppo

The Vortex - A Turkish city on the frontier of Syria’s war.

Iranian Phantom jet strikes the Islamic State in Iraq
Iran was the first country to pledge and deliver military support to Iraq when the Islamic State began its offensive earlier in the year. At the time that the first IRIAF Su-25s arrived over Baghdad in late June, there was much speculation that Iran and the United States may come together in some form of joint operation against the Islamic State. However, the recent détente between the two countries is still in its very early stages, and neither side much relished the prospect of military co-operation to such a degree.

As such, there appear to be two parallel military campaigns being waged against the Islamic State, with the United States and its allies conducting their air campaign over Iraq and Syria, and Iran pursuing its own military agenda in Iraq at the same time. So far, this dual approach does appear to be working (at least in terms of de-conflicting the two military campaigns), but should they happen to cross paths over the coming weeks and months it would no doubt muddy still further an already complicated conflict.
Where does Iran get spare parts for its F-4's, I wonder.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia says that they "are kept operational by overhaul and servicing from Iran's aerospace industry." Another article says that "Due to the continuous spare parts shortages faced by the air force, a decision was made in the late 1980s to develop a local aerospace industry to support the air force." That seems plausible enough to me: the F-4s are old technology and Iran's has a very large and well-financed military. If they can build tens of thousands of uranium centrifuges, they can undoubtedly duplicate spare parts for a plane designed nearly sixty years ago.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:57 PM on December 2, 2014


I guess it probably predates any modern electronics which would be a big help. I knew someone who was on a carrier during the last years of Vietnam and just afterward. I remember him saying the F-4's were rock solid and easy to maintain, whereas F-14's were junk.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:07 PM on December 2, 2014


« Older Students applauded and were visibly moved in the...   |   The reviewers reviewed Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments