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In Which I Tear Down Another Person’s Plan, But Without Proposing an Alternative May 31, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.

I take issue with Drew.

He argues, as have many, many others, that the problem in Syria is “a them problem, not an us problem.”  This, most recently in response to a WSJ op-ed recommending intervention of some sort.  Now I agree with Drew that you can’t just wave away the reality that it’s the Islamists over there who are doing the heaviest, most effective fighting.  I think John McCain, for example, is a lunatic if he thinks America can determine who the good guys are, and who the bad, especially after he so hilariously proved himself wrong by staging a photo op with kidnappers.

So it’s not like I think Drew is totally off the rails on this one.  I just think he’s waving off some important data as well.

I interrupt this policy piece to remind you all that when Lebanon had an uprising, they got protest babes.  And that, in turn, leads me to this link via Glen Reynolds.  You’re welcome.

First, you can’t really claim that “dead Syrians and chemical weapons aren’t of interest” to Americans, because chemical weapons have this nasty habit of moving around.  Stuff one of those things in a truck and drive it into Israeli territory, for example, and now you have a “dead Israelis” problem rather than a dead Syrians problem.  That doesn’t tug your heartstrings?  Well it turns out we have some embassies in the region, and terrorists have been known to attack them.

Second, I certainly have sympathy with the idea of letting the bad guys kill each other off.  As Drew says,

Extend the fighting as long as possible and watch all sides weaken themselves. Once they’ve bled themselves dry, we can talk about what comes next.

That would be a fantastic plan if the dynamic of war usually meant the bad guys killed each other off, while people uninterested in conflict were left alone.  But as soon as I type that sentence, it becomes clear how laughably naive that is.  Your average, apolitical and not-particularly religious Syrian may not be interested in war, but war has taken an interest in them.  The end result of protracted conflict is not dead bad guys and relatively unscathed non-participants, but dead (or fled) good guys with the baddest, toughest, cruelest and luckiest of the bad guys straddling the mass graves.

Third, war has a way of transforming the good guys who do survive into bad guys, and worse, that’s a multi-generational transformation.  The worst example of this is Afghanistan.  After the Soviets left, it was very easy to simply claim “dead Afghans is a them problem, not an us problem,” and that would have been absolutely true.  Until a solid decade of one of the worst civil wars in world history turned entire generations of Afghans into sociopaths with a sour view of westerners. That’s when those sociopaths turned their them problem into an us problem.  Consider this: even today, some Afghan school kids read math books with word problems along the lines of “the muzzle velocity of a 7.62 round fired from an AK-47 is 700 meters per second.  If a Russian officer is standing 2,000 meters away, and you aim at his forehead, how long …”

But as I said in the title to this post, as much as I take issue with Drew’s argument, I can’t propose an alternative plan.  First, frightening as the Afghanistan comparison is, I can find a counter-example next door in Iraq/Iran.  We played both sides of that conflict for eight years, rooting for injuries, and although both countries are basket cases, neither of them is Afghanistan.  Second, we can’t base our foreign policy on the notion that we must prevent bad things from happening to good people so they don’t one day turn bad and attack us.  It’s just not possible.

Really, the best solution would be to go back in time a couple of years to when the uprising was brand new, before AQ had time to get there in strength and start recruiting local supporters, and done something about the situation back then, when we had a better shot at success in building realistic partnerships.  AQ is a metastasizing cancer, and the worst thing you can do with cancer is ignore it and hope it goes away.  Alas, that’s exactly what Obama’s foreign policy boils down to.  Because he’s an idiot.



1. thirdnews - May 31, 2013

I don’t think the Greater Middle East is an ‘either, or’ problem but factually, all can agree what men can do to the least among them is morally repugnant.

We know our effort will not bring about permanent change, unless our intervention encompasses generations -sadly, their child brides, and natural lifespan, define that timeline at least a third less than in the developed world

Yes, without intervention, they will kill each other but will a civil war seed leadership in the abused? History, proves so.

Most people ignore the third possibility: The probability that pandemic disease will make this discussion moot

2. Sobek - May 31, 2013

“The probability that pandemic disease will make this discussion moot”

Hey that’s … ! um, really a depressing thought.

3. wintersetruss - June 1, 2013

Like SMoD is going to give “pandemics” a chance to finish us off before “the big fire” comes down….

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