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News Why not Syria?

  1. Apr 26, 2013 #1

    russ_watters

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    It is completely a coincidence, but today is the two year anniversary of when I started the "Why Libya, Why Not Syria?" thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=493814

    Unfortunately as many middle-east threads do, it degenerated, but the issue is still relevant and today more relevant than ever. I'm starting this because of the news that the US intelligence community believes the Syrian government has used Sarin Gas on the rebels and Syrian civilians. The title of this one drops the reference to Libya because this situation now clearly stands on its own, incomparable to what led us to fight in Libya.

    Here's a copy of the intelligence assessment:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2013/04/25/letter-on-chemical-weapons-use-in-syria/

    Now, there is some hedging in it, but only a little bit of hedging. Basically it says that they are just mostly sure, not completely sure it was the Syrian government that used it. It references "physiological samples", which I take to mean they actually took tissue or other samples and chemically identified sarin. So we know for a fact that sarin has been used. But then it says "the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions." That means they don't have clear evidence that it was the Syrian government that used it, they just think (presumably based on who was targeted) that it was the Syrian government. That amount of hedging - to me - makes it just barely short of an ironclad case.

    So where does that put us? Well:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-schneider/obama-toes-the-red-line-i_b_3165908.html

    Cue chirping crickets:
    So it is a "red line" with no defined consequences and an extremely tight standard of proof required. Sure, we got burned with the standard of proof on Iraq, but that standard of proof didn't even include the WMDs being used, just that they existed. Here we know for certain that it was used. So we're far beyond what existed for Iraq.

    Yes, I'm a republican. Yes, I could probably be accurately called a "war hawk". But I'm a war hawk mostly (when we aren't directly threatened) for cases where there is problem that is really bad and really needs to be solved and we could solve it really easily. IMO, this is such a case. The death toll is getting pretty high and the Syrian people are suffering at the hands of a murderous dictator who has elevated himself to Khaddaffi/Hussein's level. The UN says the death toll is 70,000, with roughly eighty percent being civilians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Syrian_civil_war

    So my question is: how many is enough?
     
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  3. Apr 26, 2013 #2
    So where would we get the money to fight a war with Syria?
     
  4. Apr 26, 2013 #3

    russ_watters

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    Same place it always comes from. Same place it came from when we fought Libya. Not sure what kind of question that is, but anyway...

    The war in Libya cost the US on the order of a billion dollars: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20123941-503543/libya-mission-cost-u-s-more-than-1-billion/

    I'm among the 53% of American tax filers who pays for such things, so that's an average of about $14 each. I'm willing to pay $14 to fix this.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2013
  5. Apr 26, 2013 #4

    nsaspook

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    Both sides in the Syria war are extremist. Most of the Islamic moderates, Christians and secular leaders are with Assad. Russian and China will support Assad if we intervene directly in the fight. Let them work out their own problems if it can be contained. I feel for the poor civilians caught in the middle but it's their country to fix and not worth one drop of American blood.

    http://www.strategyinternational.or...ism-in-syria-geopolitics-and-future-scenarios
     
  6. Apr 26, 2013 #5

    phinds

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    Russ, you say it would be easy to fix. I don't see how you get that at all. Do you want us to nuke Assad or what?
     
  7. Apr 26, 2013 #6

    russ_watters

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    I'm not advocating spilling American blood. Similar to Libya and to a lesser extent Yugoslavia, providing air support to a revolution can be successful in enabling it to overthrow the government.
    I believe that's true, but there is little better way to ingratiate yourself to a population than to help them free themselves from a dictator who is killing them. And if we do, we may be able to influence the direction of the new government.

    At worst, we end up with another radical, but much less powerful enemy than we had before.

    Moreover, your article (good article, btw) says that external extremists are injecting themselves into the conflict on both sides. That's a better reason for us to get involved, not a worse one. If we can help end the conflict, we can help stop the flow of extremists into it. That element of the conflict makes it a hotspot of our War on Terror and means the continuation of the war is a threat to our security.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2013
  8. Apr 26, 2013 #7
    But Syria has more friends then Libya, e.g. Russia and China, so war with Syria would be much more costly and could easily draw the US into a war with unlimited consequences. Any war with Syria should have the same blessings of the international community as did the war with Libya.
     
  9. Apr 26, 2013 #8

    MarneMath

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    I mostly concur with nsaspook. I spent a few years of my life in the middle east attempting to solve unsolvable problems. I don't want to send more 18 yr old kids to risk his life because a war hawks believe 14 dollars per American is a reasonable cost to risk his life. Especially don't want those very same kids to fight a war for an ally that very well may decide to turn on us once the whole ordeal is over.
     
  10. Apr 26, 2013 #9

    MarneMath

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    While, I'll admit that the killings in Iraq by the government were not on the scale that is occurring right now in, memories are fickle things. I've walked through torture chambers, mass grave sites, and listen to the oral history of Saddam's rule. I heard it from guys who lost family to his rule or suffered themselves. It wasn't uncommon for those people to get sick of us and start to bomb us. The idea that we can influence a new government because we aided in their liberation is a false idealism. I have no doubt America would try, I also have no doubt that their attempt to do so would readily be seen and thus flare up more anti-American feelings in the region forcing whatever new government forms to take a hard stance against America. Much like what happens in Afghanistan.
     
  11. Apr 26, 2013 #10
    Isn't it better for the west if the country stays destabilized anyways? What's the point of going in, let em beat the hell out of each other until they can't take it anymore.. the longer it goes on, the longer none of us have to worry about the place. Most of the reason the U.S. even wages wars in this day and age is simply TO destabilize.

    Obviously this sucks when you factor in respect of human life, but frankly, no side is any better when it comes to Syria.. so I could care less how many survive.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2013
  12. Apr 26, 2013 #11

    russ_watters

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    Unlimited consequences? Do you really think they would actually go to war against us in Syria? I could see them vetoing a UNSC resolution, but even then it would look really really bad to vote in favor of a regime that is using WMDs.
    Agreed. I'm quite sure we could round-up a coalition similar to what we had in Libya and I doubt that Russia and China would intervene - also like with Libya, I suspect they would merely abstain.
     
  13. Apr 26, 2013 #12

    russ_watters

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    A valid point. As a pragmatist, I suppose in that way it is win-win for us if Islamic extremists are killing each other, but as a human being I find it offensive, particularly when the vast majority of those dying are civilians.
     
  14. Apr 26, 2013 #13
    Same here, truthfully. But at the same time, the U.S. does enough for the world.. sometimes putting something off when it can be, safely, is the smarter thing to do.
     
  15. Apr 27, 2013 #14

    BobG

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    But would Grover Norquist?

    In the current climate, I'm not sure what a war with Syria would mean. Would we be deficit hawks and raise taxes to pay for the war as we go? Would we be deficit hawks and cut spending in other areas to pay for the war as we go? Or would hold a hard line on taxes and pay for the war with deficit spending?

    These should be dumb questions, but we set a precedent with Afghanistan and Iraq in that we decided we wouldn't let wars get in the way of reduced taxes and economic growth. Previously, the financial impact was part of the calculus used to decide whether the war was worth it or not.

    However bad things are in Syria, will they be better after Assad is gone? From Syrian citizens' point of view, I'd have to say yes. But from our point of view? We don't know who will wind up in control after the war.

    For that matter, we don't know what will happen to the weapons after the war. Many of the weapons used in Libya wound in Mali, making that a much larger than usual insurgency conducted by a whole different group than the usual insurgents. (Mali has had many Tuareg insurgencies that haven't gained much traction because the Tuaregs lacked money and weapons.)

    The biggest positive is that we could help bring down Assad without sending in troops. In fact, given the lack of ground rules for using drones, the administration could probably assist Syrian rebels without even having to worry about Congress. In other words, providing limited assistance to Syria without a serious impact to our own country (in either lives or money) could actually be a reality given changes in our capabilities just in the last 10 years.

    I think my biggest reason for lack of enthusiasm is that I just don't believe the results will be much better than their current leadership - at least from a US point of view. I don't see us gaining very much.
     
  16. Apr 27, 2013 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    That's an argument to always back the losing side. Which may be the pragmatic position, but I do not think it's the morally right position.
     
  17. Apr 27, 2013 #16
    I'm not sure I agree with this statement. I'm definitely biased towards isolationism, but am open to being wrong. Are there any examples of this happening in recent history? How frequently does that happen versus the reverse? (I don't think Kosovars, Somalians, or Afghanis are very ingratiated with us, despite the military/humanitarian support we gave them)
     
  18. Apr 27, 2013 #17

    Office_Shredder

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    My understanding is that Kosovo has really good relations with the US.
     
  19. Apr 28, 2013 #18

    BobG

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    It's not true in Iraq (with the exception of the Kurds). However, there is an important caveat. This poll was taken 18 months ago, which is eons ago in a country where things are still changing very rapidly. At the time of the poll, Iraqis were very worried about how US troop withdrawal would affect their security. In the most recent Iraqi poll (which doesn't address attitudes aout the US at all), security concerns dropped below infrastructure needs (electricity, water, etc) as Iraqis major concern.

    http://aai.3cdn.net/2212d2d41f760d327e_fxm6vtlg7.pdf [Broken]

    Iraqis have very mixed opinions about the US. They feel the invasion made things worse, reduced political freedom (a very surprising opinion), and feel the US and Iran benefited most from the invasion. But they also feel the 2006 troop surge improved things in Iraq (suggesting the initial mess created the most negative feelings) and, while mostly approving of the US withdrawal, their main opinion towards the US withdrawal was worry (so far, most of that worry was unfounded). In fact, at the time, most Iraqis felt the US should stay as long as necessary in spite of their opinions about the US invading in the first place.

    On the other hand, Iraqis view Iran as unfavorably as they do the US. 26% of Iraqis view the US favorably and 26% view Iran favorably. 67% view the US unfavorably and 66% view Iran unfavorably. As might be expected, Kurds (the group worse off under Hussein) view the US favorably and the Sunnis (the group in power under Hussein) view us very unfavorably. No group views Iran favorably, although more Shias view Iran favorably than other groups.

    The poll says something, but Iraq is a place where polls lose relevancy quickly, so I wouldn't put too much stock in this poll even if it is the most recent regarding opinions of the US. Iraq was also very conflicted in its views (for example, 62% of Iraqis would like a democratic government, but 61% of Iraqis believe democracy won't work in Iraq, which could at least partially explain the surprising opinion about whether the US invasion improved political freedom).

    Eliminating Hussein still could eventually result in Iraq liking the US, once Iraq has some real stability. It just neither has happened yet. I guess the main lesson is that there is no simple "if this .... then that..." when it comes to the result of liberating people from a dictator. The result is always messy and always a mixed bag.

    While it doesn't address attitudes about the US at all, the most current poll about how Iraqis feel things are going in Iraq still might be interesting: National Survey of Public Opinion in Iraq
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  20. Apr 28, 2013 #19

    Astronuc

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    Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/w...els-gains-in-syria-create-dilemma-for-us.html

    I think the problem of aiding rebels is that many are now hardened militants, and certainly Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the situation.

    The country is ethnically and religiously diverse, although there are large majorities, e.g., Sunnis who were previously oppressed. "Sunni account for 74% of the population, while 13% are Shia (Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis combined), 10% Christian (the majority Antiochian Orthodox, the rest include Greek Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and other denominations), and 3% Druze." Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria#Religion
    http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2006/71432.htm

    It seems that a solution to the intractable conflict between religious and ethnic groups will take a generation or so, and would require a remarkable leader(s) to resolve. The US is very much an outsider.
     
  21. Apr 28, 2013 #20

    mheslep

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    Zogby research might be evidence, but it is not identical to the the truth, as might expected when answers depend on weighing war versus freedom.

    2008 Poll, ABC News, BBC, ARD, NHK. N=2,228
    http://www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs/0308opinion.pdf

     
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