Leading article

Syria: A war without a purpose

31 August 2013

9:00 AM

31 August 2013

9:00 AM

There is something deeply disturbing about switching on the television and finding Jack Straw talking about the need to take military action against a Ba’athist dictator who is using weapons of mass destruction against his own people. Tony Blair has also popped up to urge moral purpose. And all this before the UN weapons inspectors have put pen to paper. The decision-making over Syria is following the same skewed logic, making the same wrong turns as last time. Except that with Iraq there was at least a clear preliminary plan: invasion, followed by regime change and the introduction of democracy. The plan for Syria offers no such clarity.

Reports of up to 1,800 people killed by sarin gas by Bashar al-Assad’s regime are chillingly credible. Atrocities are being perpetrated there every day, and by all sides (there are now far more than just two sides). It is often said that there have been 100,000 casualties so far. What we seldom hear is that this figure includes 27,000 killed by the rebels — some of whom have shown themselves at least equal to Assad in their barbarity. Earlier this week they beheaded a cleric whom they found guilty of apostasy. The black flag of al-Qa’eda is flying over rebel-held villages where summary executions have been going on for some time. Were they to take Damascus, we can imagine what type of regime would follow.

It is a depressing testament to the weakness of Nato militaries that, from London to Istanbul, what ‘taking action’ in Syria really means is lobbying the White House to use the US Navy. But this problem is self-inflicted. Europe has been cutting back on its military for decades, a process which David Cameron accelerated when he decided (for instance) that Britain can go without aircraft carriers and that the Army should be cut to levels not seen since the 19th century. Barack Obama’s attention lies on the other side of the Pacific, not the Atlantic. He has no stomach for this fight, and is mulling action mainly because he threatened ‘consequences’ if chemical weapons were deployed. Having put his credibility on the line, he has to act.

But such a limited, wrist-slapping response can demonstrate weakness rather than strength. The Taleban were hardly deterred when Bill Clinton’s government fired missiles into Afghanistan in 1998 in retaliation for an attack on American embassies. The Pentagon has already made it clear that it has no intention of weakening Assad’s regime — perhaps because the idea of jihadis controlling the chemical weapons stashes is even more terrifying. We are, in effect, asking Assad if he would please kill his enemies using conventional means.

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This is why the argument for intervention falls so flat: it lacks purpose. In Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya the purpose was to replace dictatorship with an elected leader. In Sierra Leone the aim was to stop the hand-amputating guerrillas laying waste to Freetown. In Syria, the aim is just to make a gesture — to fire Tomahawk missiles towards Damascus to honour Barack Obama’s threat of ‘consequences’ for Assad.

Normally, a recalled parliament is just an expensive therapy session for politicians who feel the world needs to know what they have to say. But this time the debate has served to tease out the complexities that were too easily brushed aside over Iraq. Adam Holloway, an ex-soldier, has said he would back military action if it had a purpose. But, he asks, what will this achieve? The Americans have all the missiles they need. The most effective way in which Britain can help is by giving support to Assad’s local enemies: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Our military options are very limited.

This is not apparent from the Prime Minister’s language. He talks as if he wishes actually to intervene; to stop the fighting. His more hawkish advisers describe Syria as a test case for non-intervention as if the 100,000 death toll was somehow a result of a British policy. The Prime Minister also uses similar language, introducing the concept of ‘standing idly by’. He has placed himself in a new but widely shared tradition which regards humanitarian intervention as lawful war, legitimised by a responsibility to protect. There was a time when Tony Blair wanted to make this British policy. If the Rwandan genocide were to happen again, he said, ‘we would have a moral duty to act there’.

These are noble aims. But the world is, alas, full of conflicts — with death tolls that exceed Syria’s. Tajikistan’s civil war killed 50,000, Algeria’s and Congo’s 150,000 and 300,000 have died in Darfur. But Britain did not intervene in any of them for a simple reason: we could not see how we could (or should) help. The same is, tragically, true for Syria today. Arming the rebels will guarantee further deaths. And a rebel victory could boost al-Qa’eda and simply usher in a new phase of war, with brutal sectarian reprisals.

In recent years Britain has acquired a dangerous habit of willing the ends but not the means. This led to the debacle of Basra, which was left to the mercy of Shi’ite death squads because we did not put in enough troops to keep the peace. In Afghanistan our badly equipped troops needed American reinforcements when things got out of control. The lesson of the Blair years is not to play a game you cannot win.

Cameron’s instincts are honourable, and he is right to see Britain as a country that seeks to shape the world, rather than be shaped by it. He has perhaps surprised even himself with his interventionist instincts and the extent to which he dislikes ‘standing idly by’. But having scaled back the military so much, he had better get used to it.

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Show comments
  • Fasdunkle

    Exactly

  • Austin Barry

    The public is also just sick and tired of Islam, here, there and everywhere.

    • Venk Shenoi

      regrettably they are here, there, and everywhere – I may not like Catholics, hindus or Budhists, and Muslims all of whom have practised or are still doing horrendous acts against their fellow human beings – we will just have to deal with wickedness wherever and by whoever if we are able and willing to do so. The world out there is tough and ignoring the dangers assuming it will not touch you is living in fools’ paradise.

      • george

        So the person marking you down thinks that we CAN live in a fool’s paradise? Well they say there’s one born every minute…. Personally I think that’s understating the birthrate.

        • Venk Shenoi

          Regrettably most think bad things will not happen to them and can sit and simply watch the nasty things happening elsewhere on their screens.

    • Iain Hill

      Islamists, but not Islam.

      • toumanbeg

        Evidence, please!

  • Venk Shenoi

    Regardless of the distaste of Islam – the world cannot standby seeing innocent men, women and children gassed by an evil dictator.

    • NotYouNotSure

      Funny how people like you declared themselves the spokesmen for the world. First of all you take the populations of the USA, France and UK and a bunch of Gulf state monarchies and that does not even get to you to 10% of the worlds population. Now take USA, UK and France, opinion polls show that even there the majority do not agree with you.

      • Venk Shenoi

        You may be unsure – and why should a right thinking person be led by sheep? The whole world may not agree with you – so what? if there are tyrants out there who will not shirk from gassing their own people, what chance have others – Assad and his ilke have grown used to having their own way, ignore human conventions and danger to mankind. Now you may not wish to kick his teeth but there are others able, and wiling – and the unthinking billions worried about their holiday money or benefits don’t count.

        • rtj1211

          Well, if the majority think that you don’t count, you won’t be in a position to take action, will you??

          • Venk Shenoi

            Bloggers here will not determine the outcomes – but those willing and stepping forward will – actions better than words.

          • NotYouNotSure

            And you are you exactly ? What action are you partaking in, other than writing comments on the internet ? Here is my action, I am more than willing to pay for a one way trip for Syria where you can take part in the action, what action are you offering ?

            Something tells me that your courage and macho action talk stops as soon as it enters the real world.

          • Venk Shenoi

            Dead end – I am not a mercenary and the role of citizens is to support the democratically elected government that has superior intelligence, and analytical means, also technological, and organisational capacity to translate decisions into practice. Listen to the arguments going on in parliament, and make your own mind – this blogsite is not for us to respond to others’ comment and i am guilty of that right now.

        • NotYouNotSure

          So you admit you don’t speak for the world and don’t care what that opinion is, so can you please stop using (hiding behind) the “international community” or “the world” for the things that you want, that also includes what the UK wants, you don’t speak for anyone but yourself.

    • Fasdunkle

      Let the Arab League or the OIC sort it out. It isn’t our fight

      • Venk Shenoi

        Everyone acts on his/her conviction. The Arab League has weak knees, different perspectives – the danger of tyrants and terrorists have their way – we have more to lose, are able, and willing to act – hence we should. Sitting on the Arabs sorting their deep-seated, historic condition and middle-ages mindsets will destroy all of us.

        • Fasdunkle

          it will only destroy us if we keep interfering – it’s about time others took responsibility for the actions of their own instead of asking for the west to intervene then hating us when we do.

          • Venk Shenoi

            the world is no longer a vast space where people can do what they want – any and all events anywhere affects others far away. All through history those that had the ability and were willing achieved results – whether anyone hates us or loves us means little. Conversely if we are deterred by what others think of us – we will not do anything. And the people who hate us do so as we are a block to their middle-ages quest to spread radical Islam across the Globe – they will win eventually if we sit on our backs – and protecting innocent men, women, and children regardless of whether they are in the Islamic world is part of opposing the terrorists amongst them – not all there are Jihadis or AlQuaida – and that is the the way to win over those who think the West is anti-Islam.

          • Fasdunkle

            The best way is to stay out of it. Let them sort it out themselves – it’s a civil war expanded into a sectarian fight for supremacy. Not our business.

          • Paul J

            If we fear, rightly, the spread of al qaeda inspired extremist sunni jihadism, then the stupidest possible thing to do is to arm and aid the comrades of al qeada in Syria.

            Which is precisely what we’ve been doing these last 2 years.

            It’s a very stupid policy based on short termism and oil money. We’ve been backing the wrong side in Syria. Once it was clear that it had turned sectarian and jihadi we should have switched to neutrality, and after al qeada got heavily involved we should have been quietly supporting Assad.

          • Venk Shenoi

            The Sunnis were being supplied by their supporters in Bahrain, Quatar, and Saudi Arabia – best to get rid of them – why would you want to favour Assad? Best to keep them fighting each other forever – that is where we differ – if innocent men, women, and children are being massacred by a despot – no place for him. Regards Islamic Jihadists – cut out the European civil rights part, and deal harshly with any terrorists or would be terrorists at home and abroad. Bring back capital punishment, increase surveilance, and intelligence, tighten financial remittance rules, and immigration from likely spots. Track any one going out as mercenaries, etc, etc.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Blair first, then Brown and now Cameron cripple the armed forces and then ask them to do the impossible.It is other men’s sons who die.

  • darwins beard

    I do think that Chemical weapons being used on the doorstep of Europe is something to act on no matter who used them either by Islamists or Assad, what that action may be such as a conventional strike on Assad’s forces, a special task force for the Islamists and UN aid for the non combatants or simple airstrikes is yet to come out.

    • Venk Shenoi

      Spot on Darwins beard. There are risks either way – the greatest risk is fear of what will happen.

      • Guest

        Obama opened his damned mouth and made a threat that he really did not mean. Syria called his bluff, and now he either attacks or looks like a weak idiot. It has nothing to do with saving the Syrian people.. he has already said he does not intend to strike hard enough to effect the outcome of the war on the ground.. it is about saving Obama from looking impotent because of his mouth.

        Is that worth potentially igniting WW3?

        God forbid someone uses gas on Jews in Israel, they WILL come unglued and uncork a nuke. They are kinda sensitive about such things. And Syria will make good on their threat to hit Israel if we attack. Obama may want a limited action, but wars have a way of taking on a life of their own. Russia is moving warships into the region. Ya wanna start WW3? Just get involved in this crap.

        Ya do not just jump into a fight expecting to be able to slap someone and walk away… they might not let you walk away.

        The problem with making military plans is the enemy generally does not want to cooperate with your plans… that is why they are called the enemy. That is also the reason for the dictum, “All plans fall by the wayside at the moment the first shot is fired”.

        • Venk Shenoi

          Doubt if Russia/China/Iran will start WW3. Yes Assad could fight back lop a rocket or two at the US bases/warships, and Israel. The US would have factored all that in their decision grid.

  • jatrius

    Blair and Straw etc were only calling for intervention as there’s safety in numbers. “You see, I was right. David Cameron, leader of a party of a different poitical persuasion is quite prepared to make the same choices I did. You can’t put us all in the dock now, can you?” would be his line for vainglorious vindication. How on Earth could Cameron and Hague have deluded themselves that their position was ever going to be politically acceptable by jumping the gun so precipitately? Either they’re deaf, which I cannot believe or they’re in receipt of some very poor advice from their SpAds.

  • Shoe On Head

    like blair, cameron just can’t resist the urge of sitting at the big table too. speaks volumes. reveals a great deal about him.

    And as a puppet-regime wondering what cameron’s front-foot fee is in all this…?

  • Chris_M_Ward

    It is 29 August 2013. This article is published on 31 August 2013″????
    Are you trying to drop subtle hints 😉

  • Simon Fay

    By my reckoning this is the second time Cameron has performed this particular number in his ongoing ‘Heir to Blair’ tribute act. If a Robbie Williams tribute did, say, ‘Angels’ or ‘Millennium’ twice each in the set I’d think he was a limited performer.

  • E Hart

    The intriguing thing in all this is why Assad would take a course of action – if that’s indeed is what he’s done – which virtually guarantees: 1) international opprobrium and 2) outside intervention in his squalid internecine conflict. The war is already asymmetrical with the odds heavily in his favour. Why is he – apparently – so anxious broaden the conflict and bring about his own demise? What can he possibly gain?

    This time the dossier runs to a full page (next time it’ll be a fag packet) and comes with complementary Youtube footage of someone letting off stink bombs somewhere in Damascus and a free CD of Tony Blair’s guide to Middle East peace-keeping and international diplomacy.

    Baron Dannatt aka Dr Evil is spot on. He know his von Clausewitz and he’s more politically astute than most of the duffers in Parliament. It’s totally effing clueless to engaged in a scrap when you’ve got a mole’s eye view of the situation and it’s getting darker. You can’t recognise anyone. You don’t know who anyone is. You can’t understand anyone. You’ve got form for cocking it up big-time. What’s more even if you manage to get rid of Assad and WMDs, you have no idea who’s going to fill the vacuum. Look what happened when the US tried to go into Lebanon – utter disaster.

    Something doesn’t add up here.

    • BoiledCabbage

      Assad may not have ordered the chem strike, even though Syrian Army assets look to have been used. Command & control might have been hacked and the order faked, for example.

      • E Hart

        Mr BoiledCabbage, exactly, we don’t know.

        • toumanbeg

          And we never will. What you fuzzy bunny’s fail to comprehend is that in the real world decisions MUST be made on the data available. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. I wonder if those voting realized what they were voting for. The issue here is not Syria, Assad or chemical weapons. Those are just the details of why this issue is coming up now.

          The issue is if the USA stays on the job as the worlds cop or if we turn in our badge and hang up our guns.

          I am a Boomer, the post WW2 generation. My generation bought into the idea of a world commons and the need to police such a commons as well as the need for a world body to set the rules for that Commons. My children (Generation X) and my grandchildren ( Milleniums) Have NOT. They think it is a scam, a con designed to lift tax money from their wallet and put it in the wallets of the Merchants of Death.

          IN 2011 the USA spent 449 thousand millions on it’s defence budget. The UK GDP was 2.375 trillion in 2012.
          Since a billion is not the same thing in America as in the UK, here are the compared numbers. 449 to 2,375
          So America’s Defence budget was about 20% of the entire GDP of the UK.

          A lot of money.

          Wasted money in the minds of most Americans.
          Money that only needs to be spent because the USA is playing world cop. Stop playing world cop and the USA can build any type of health care system it wants.

          Stop playing world cop means no more UN. As Blackstone said; “The law does not go where enforcement cannot reach.”

          No cops, nor judges. It looks like Parliament has voted for the criminals to take over. Wait, they are politicians, so the criminals have already taken over.
          Buckle up boys and girls. The ride is about to get bumpy.

    • stephen rothbart

      You forget Obama and Kerry have vested their legacy on solving the Israeli/Palestinian problem.

      If they can’t even get their act together when a government crosses the red line of chemical weapons, they are going to have a tough convincing the Israelis to sign a suici…sorry peace treaty with the Palestinians which they guarantee they will stand behind Israel on whe…sorry if Hamas win control of the new Palestinian State and start attacking Israelis in Jerusalem with the same kinds of missiles they get from Iran, through Syria and fire at Israelis in their towns and villages.

      As for Cameron, I think he believes Obama has grown a pair and want to continue his bromance with the man. Perhaps he likes basketball after all.

      • E Hart

        The US would have to underscore Israel’s security in any peace accord. Also, the US has come unstuck in Lebanon and Iraq and getting involved in Syria looks like more of the same. Blowing things to smithereens is unlikely to add clarity to the situation.

        • Moa

          Actually the US did not come “unstuck in Iraq” at all. Yes, I know that is the meme pushed by the anti-war lobby, but let us example the facts.

          The US did badly underestimate the fanaticism of jihadis and of ruling such a squalid state where corruption was rife and Iran’s sticky fingers were through many politicians. They got that wrong.

          What the US did get right was a steely determination to “stay the course” in spite of World opprobrium and Islamic fanaticism (both Sunni and Shia).

          By 2009 Iraq was pacified to be as good as it was ever going to get.

          So what went wrong?

          Three mistakes were made:
          1) The worst mistake that was made was to write Sharia into the Iraqi Constitution. The Americans should have known better. Doing this mean every jihadi was able to act according to “The law of the land” (a Big Thing for jihadis) while slaughtering innocents.

          2) Iraq had been pacified to such a degree and the Iraqi security apparatus made relatively effective that the Iraqis thought they didn’t need the US. That miscalculation (coupled with nudging from Iran, do doubt) led the Iraqis to demand conditions on a Status of Forces agreement that they knew the US could not accept (since the US did not want to subject its military to the corrupt whims of Iranian-influenced Iraqi politicians).

          3) Barack Obama had declared he would pull out of Iraq – regardless of the geopolitical situtation. So, rather than staying and nuturing a modern secular State as was done for Germany, Japan and Korea (which took decades to sort out), Obama pulled out of Iraq for his *own personal political gain*.

          Now we see Obama working for his *own personal political gain* again since he talked big about a Red Line he never had thought he’d have to do anything about.

          So now we have the situation where the US military is about to be employed as the “Al Qaeda Air Force” (helping the local Al Qaeda franchise, “Al Nusra)” and helping the Muslim Brotherhood (which Obama and Hiliary Clinton always assist in any situation – eg. working against the secular elements of the Egyptian population since June; selling out the Iranian people in 2009; helping Al Qaeda against Ghadaffi in Libya, etc). Futhermore the attack is not about regime change or anything useful – it’s just so Obama doesn’t get laughed at for being such a useless tool who gives soaring speeches but never achieves anything worthwhile (ya know, like promoting secular democracy and economic progress around the Globe).

          This is why your “the US has come unstuck in Iraq” is wrong. They won the tough war to liberate and pacify it. It was Barack Hussein Obama who handed Iraq to the Iranian theocrats for his own personal political gain. Disgusting, isn’t it?

          • E Hart

            Politically, staying in Iraq would do for any US president. It’s just not (electorally) tenable in the long-run and the public don’t like these open-ended geo-political adventures. Germany, Japan and Korea were different because they were part of wider military and political conflagrations, that required long-term commitment.

            There is very good chance at Iraq will fragment.

    • george

      Russia’s Putin. Does that clarify anything? It should.

      • E Hart

        It does. He doesn’t want Assad to go because he fears something even worse. Who is to say he isn’t right?

        • Tom M

          His concern is for national sovereignty. If a government can be seen to be toppled by insurgents then he sees this as setting a precedent for troubles in his own backyard and he doesn’t want that. He has too many insecure states that could quite easily become the target for successful insurgents moving on from Syria.

    • toumanbeg

      “The war is already asymmetrical with the odds heavily in his favour.”

      Actually, Assad has already lost, he just isn’t finished. In recorded history no insurrection that survived more then two years has failed to overthrow the established Government. There are various qualifiers to that but it is a fact of military history. And taught as such.
      Assad is still alive today because Iran is sending fighters and Russia weapons. Without that support, he would have been Quadiffied early last year. Quadiffied is being shot behind the right ear while being buggered. As an expression of animosity it’s hard to beat.

  • BoiledCabbage

    Its about time schoolboy Cameron handed back the Conservative party to someone with common sense and maturity – David Davies for example. Cameron has shown total lack of vision by his ‘judgement call’ on the gas attack. It is quite incredible that a man of such limited sense – now exposed – should be the leader of this country.

    • E Hart

      They’d never put David Davis in charged. He can think.

      • mikewaller

        The man’s a posturing idiot who blew it when he had his chance. My guess is that at a subconscious level he knew he was not up to it. More comfortable to performing from the backbenches than failing in office.

        • E Hart

          Posturing? He might not make a great leader but he’s a capable man with integrity. Also, unlike his boss, he’s not a walking cliche.

          • mikewaller

            There we have to agree to differ. I shall never forget the quite unnecessary by-election he caused which struck me as the epitome of posturing.

    • Adrian Wainer

      ” Its about time schoolboy Cameron handed back the Conservative party to someone with common sense and maturity – David Davies for example. Cameron has shown total lack of vision by his ‘judgement call’ on the gas attack. It is quite incredible that a man of such limited sense – now exposed – should be the leader of this country. “,.
      BoiledCabbage

      Cameron’s objective was not to support British national security interests nor humanitarian interests since neither was advanced by a British Military attack on the Syrian regime, Cameron’s objective was to act in the interests of his Saudi masters and therefor his actions are quite logical though one can reasonably argue he has shot himself in the foot by being quite so cavalier in effectively failing to camouflage his motivations.

      http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02390/david_2390425b.jpg

  • Augustus

    For more than two years a mishmash of extreme Sunni elements, criminals and insurgents have been fighting against the Alawite regime. And that opposition certainly has no second thoughts in carrying out all manner of atrocities, attacking and torturing even each other. By intervening militarily in Syria and helping Al-Qaida take over in Syria would not only be ironical, history would see it as an extreme nadir, whereas the Sarin attack would only be another footnote in the long list of ME atrocities.

    • Paul J

      Absolutely.

      We (the government that is) has dreadfully misunderstood our national interest. The last thing we want in Syria is an extremist sunni jihadi takeover, and that’s exactly what we’d get if Assad loses.

      • Adrian Wainer

        ” Absolutely.

        We (the government that is) has dreadfully misunderstood our national interest. The last thing we want in Syria is an extremist sunni jihadi takeover, and that’s exactly what we’d get if Assad loses. “,.
        Paul J

        The Cameron Government had not ” dreadfully misunderstood our national interest ” it knowingly and deliberately decided to act against the UK national security interest and humanitarian interests in supporting military action against the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria.

    • mikewaller

      My bet is that it will be viewed as one of the early dates on which Sarin and similar started to acquire military acceptability. This will make it wise for every tyrant to have his own stockpile and when – as is inevitable – one of those stockpiles gets into the hands of some brand of nihilist or another, may God help us.

  • GeeBee36_6

    ‘There is something deeply disturbing about switching on the television
    and finding Jack Straw talking about the need to take military action
    against a Ba’athist dictator who is using weapons of mass destruction
    against his own people.’

    And who would that be, exactly? Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite (part of the Shia group of muslims) whereas the Ba’athists are a sub-sect of the Wahabists – an extreme Sunni sect.

    Does the author of this piece really have such a feeble grasp of his subject matter?

    • Simon

      The only person with a feeble grasp of the subject matter is yourself. Ba’athists are not Wahhabists like you say, but a secular fascistic party.

      • GeeBee36_6

        Derived (originally) from Wahhabists. Go look it up. None of which alters the fact that Ba’athists are Sunnis and Alawites Shiites. My observation stands: the writer knows not that Saddam was a Sunni, whereas Assad is a Shiite.

        • AndrewMelville

          And yet Assad and his father before him have led the Ba’athist Party as Presidents of Syria since 1971 – how curious!

        • Simon

          Its not derived from Wahhabism at all. You’re completely wrong. Its founder was an Arab Christian Michael Aflaq and it flourished in the urban centres of Syria and Iraq, not the desert wastes where Wahhabism originated and flourished.

        • Adrian Wainer

          ” Derived (originally) from Wahhabists. Go look it up. None of which alters the fact that Ba’athists are Sunnis and Alawites Shiites. My observation stands: the writer knows not that Saddam was a Sunni, whereas Assad is a Shiite. “,.

          ” Go look it up. “,.
          Like where, do you recommend The Beano ?

          http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/7/72648/1355279-beano144.jpg

    • Adrian Wainer

      ” There is something deeply disturbing about switching on the television

      and finding Jack Straw talking about the need to take military action
      against a Ba’athist dictator who is using weapons of mass destruction
      against his own people.’

      And who would that be, exactly? Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite (part of the Shia group of muslims) whereas the Ba’athists are a sub-sect of the Wahabists – an extreme Sunni sect.

      Does the author of this piece really have such a feeble grasp of his subject matter? “,.
      GeeBee36_6

      Ba’athism is a Fascist ideology which supports Arab racial supremacy ideology and Islamist supremacy ideology. As Ba’athism is secular with Islamism built on to a secular core it is not fundamentally in either the camp of the Alawites or Sunnis. As for Wahhabis and Ba’athists whilst they both may work cooperatively in shared common goals for example seeking to exterminate Jews and eradicate Christianity, they are oppositional in that Wahabbism has religion as its core component and Ba’athisn has secularism as its core component and neither Wahabism not Ba’athism accept than competing World views can be legitimate.

      • Murat

        Do you learn from the History Channel??

    • Alan Ji

      Ba’athists
      are the current regime in Syria and the previous regime in Iraq

  • mikewaller

    Shame, shame, shame of the Spectator! The intention was not to seek to settle their war one way or another. It was simply that of putting such a high price on the use of biological weapons as to make others unlikely to make the same mistake.If other countries are so chicken-livered and afraid of their electorates as to follow our lead, just watch the use of such weapons proliferate. Remember, there was a time when the use of submarines without warning against passenger ships was considered something no civilised country would contemplate. Yet by the end of WW2 the Russian navy could torpedo a ship carrying thousands of refugees and have the episode treated as just one of those things.

    Put as its simplest, anybody who sent the appalling Assad brothers and dear old Putin to bed with smiles on their faces must have done something wrong

    • Tom M

      You are correct about the submarine thing. It happened with submarines so it will happen with chemical weapons.
      I don’t understand your agument about “high price”. Just look at Iran. The biggest weapon of mass destruction being manufactured before your eyes and what can we do about it?
      Do you really think that these people are cautious because of some price to be paid? They can’t wait to get tooled up with whatever weapons they can (just like we did) and they will use them to their full extent because they want to win at any cost.

      • mikewaller

        I think, or perhaps I should say, hope, that the line could be held on biological weapons. After all, even some of the biggest stinkers on the international stage have signed up against those. In contrast, it is very hard for countries that do have nuclear weapons to tell others that they shouldn’t. It also seems to me that although biological weapons could be used on a scale that would kill millions, as currently deployed, they seem to be tactical at best. So what might not deter the development of a game-changer like a nuclear bomb, might work with weapons of much more marginal utility. And just because the former is probably impossible does not mean that we should not attempt the latter.

        • Adrian Wainer

          ” I think, or perhaps I should say, hope, that the line could be held on biological weapons. After all, even some of the biggest stinkers on the international stage have signed up against those. In contrast, it is very hard for countries that do have nuclear weapons to tell others that they shouldn’t. It also seems to me that although biological weapons could be used on a scale that would kill millions, as currently deployed, they seem to be tactical at best. So what might not deter the development of a game-changer like a nuclear bomb, might work with weapons of much more marginal utility. And just because the former is probably impossible does not mean that we should not attempt the latter. “,.

          ” It also seems to me that although biological weapons could be used on a scale that would kill millions, as currently deployed, they seem to be tactical at best. “,.
          mikewaller

          A single one time release of a biological weapon could cause a mass extinction of the human race is that your idea of ” tactical “. You are apparently attempting to speak authoritatively on stuff you appear to know little or nothing about.

          • mikewaller

            You have a remarkable facility for reading what you want to read. As I made clear, biological weapons have huge killing potential, something about which intelligent people have been deeply concerned for over a century. But, at present, their use has only been on a comparatively small scale. It therefore seems an excellent point at which to enforce an internationally agreed prohibition.

          • Adrian Wainer

            ” You have a remarkable facility for reading what you want to read. As I made clear, biological weapons have huge killing potential, something about which intelligent people have been deeply concerned for over a century. But, at present, their use has only been on a comparatively small scale. It therefore seems an excellent point at which to enforce an internationally agreed prohibition. “,.
            mikewaller

            ” You have a remarkable facility for reading what you want to read. “,.
            Thank you for complementing me on my ability to understand and analyze what you have written. Now you have a nice day pilgrim.

    • Adrian Wainer

      ” Shame, shame, shame of the Spectator! The intention was not to seek to settle their war one way or another. It was simply that of putting such a high price on the use of biological weapons as to make others unlikely to make the same mistake.If other countries are so chicken-livered and afraid of their electorates as to follow our lead, just watch the use of such weapons proliferate. Remember, there was a time when the use of submarines without warning against passenger ships was considered something no civilised country would contemplate. Yet by the end of WW2 the Russian navy could torpedo a ship carrying thousands of refugees and have the episode treated as just one of those things.

      Put as its simplest, anybody who sent the appalling Assad brothers and dear old Putin to bed with smiles on their faces must have done something wrong “,.
      mikewaller

      ” It was simply that of putting such a high price on the use of biological weapons “,.
      Since when did Sarin become reclassified as a biological weapon ?

      ” Yet by the end of WW2 the Russian navy could torpedo a ship carrying thousands of refugees and have the episode treated as just one of those things. “,.
      The Baltic Soviet submarine fleet sank a ship carrying Jews fleeing Nazi Germany did it ?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIY36UbDbQQ

      • Vross

        “Since when did Sarin become reclassified as a biological weapon ?”

        Bingo! We are supposed to accept as brilliant analysis the opinion of someone who does not know the difference between a chemical weapon and a biological weapon?

        And btw, our own government uses chemical weapons on it’s citizens every time they use teargas, which is also a violation of international laws.

        Time to logoff and go sober up, Mike.. let those with the facts do the talking.

    • Vross

      Facts do not mean much to you, do they?

      • mikewaller

        Dear pot, I am at a loss to reply to you as your small contribution seems to be a fact-free zone.

        • Vross

          Here is a fact for you… sarin is a chemical weapon, not a biological weapon. But silly little details like facts are irrelevant, huh?

          • mikewaller

            The internationally agreed prohibition applies to both biological and chemical weapons. It is not uncommon to use one term to embrace both, particular as the former have the greater potential as mass killers. It was Sarin this time, but the actions of the do-nothing neo-Chamberlains such as yourself have now left the door wide open to its big biological brother. So when I say, “well done” please don’t take it seriously.

          • Vross

            Actually, only to the uneducated is the term biological weapon used to mean both. The inernational prohibition does indeed apply to both, and specifically names both in that prohibition. To use the name of only one in such a prohibition would leave a wide legal loophole. That is like saying murder with a gun is illegal, then later trying to convict someone of killing with a knife and saying the term gun is used to encompass guns, knives, ropes, or anything else. Such a legal interpretation would not stand scrutiny for five seconds The only term I am aware of that includes both, as well as nuclear weaponry, is WMD, or Weapons of Mass Destruction. Biological weapons are distinctly different from chemicals weapons… as much so as a knife is distinctly different from an uzi. Chemical weapons are exactly that… encompassing choking, blistering, nerve, and blood agents, and are composed strictly of chemicals. Biological weapons are composed of deadly organisms such as smallpox, ursinius pestis, and anthrax. Nice attempt to cover for your own ignorance or brain-fart, but the attempt to say the terms are used interchangeably to mean both or the other category of weapons is lame at best.

          • Vross

            Only to the most uneducated would the term be applied to both. Yes they are both outlawwed, but the niether the laws nor international “norms” use the name of one to account for the other. The only term I am aware of, and certainly the only term used in any legal sense, which encompassed biological and chemical weapons also encompasses nuclear, and that is the WMD, or Weapon of Mass Destruction. To use the term in that manner, especially in a legal sense, which all international treaties are, would not stand up to scrutiny for five seconds.. any more than a law prohibiting the use of a gun could be used to prosecute someone for killing with a knife. They are distinctly different classes of weapons, and their different categories are spelled out in International Law. Chemical weapons are precisely that.. chemicals, and are several classes, choking, blood, blister, and nerve agents. Biological weapons are deadly microorganisms, such as Ursinius Pestis, Smallpox, and Anthrax. They are as distinctly different types of weapons to each other as a bowie knife is to an Uzi. I happen to know a bit about such weapons, as my job in the army for better than 16 years was a weapons specialist, and instructor at the US Army Ordinance Center and School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds Maryland… and such laws are applicable primarily to the military, and I can tell you exactly how the military and the Articles of War classify such weapons.

            Your attempt to cover either for your ignorance, or brain-fart, is pretty pathetic and lame.

          • mikewaller

            As we are clearly in the world of childish personal abuse, I much appreciate the opportunity to express my withering contempt for a clown who in my view has committed the following calumny: His own moral bankruptcy in respect of his Munich-style unwillingness to act were action is the only bulwark against the proliferation of both chemical and biological weapons – as intelligent opinion is coming increasingly to recognise – has been exposed to the world. Seeking a salve for his deep sense of inner shame he trots out the kind of self-serving pedantry to be found above. Sadly, in future when ever the appalling episode in Syria is mentioned, a sicking image will spring into my mind of dear old Vross kneeing by a dying child saying, “It’s alright, it only chemical”.

  • Adrian Wainer

    ” This is why the argument for intervention falls so flat: it lacks purpose. “,.

    Sorry you are simply wrong. There is a structured argument for UK Armed Forces attacking the Syrian regime and that is that UK Prime Minister David Cameron is an Islamist fellow traveler, Saudi messenger boy and President Barack Hussein Obama II’s poodle with President Obama being a Muslim and more importantly an Islamist and the objective on the part of Cameron in attempting to attack the Syrian regime using cruise missiles is to support the Saudi War on Western Civilization and eliminate the Bashar al Assad regime as a competing faction.

    ” Cameron’s instincts are honourable “,.
    No they are not, he is a scumbag and an Arab racial supremacist Islamist Quisling traitor.

    http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/LcbymGo_tLk/maxresdefault.jpg

  • Vross

    No war on Syria.

    Obama opened his damned mouth and made a threat that he really did not mean. Syria called his bluff, and now he either attacks or looks like a weak idiot. It has nothing to do with saving the Syrian people.. he has already said he does not intend to strike hard enough to effect the outcome of the war on the ground.. it is about saving Obama from looking impotent because of his mouth.

    Is that worth potentially igniting WW3?

    God forbid someone uses gas on Jews in Israel, they WILL come unglued and uncork a nuke. They are kinda sensitive about such things. And Syria will make good on their threat to hit Israel if we attack. Obama may want a limited action, but wars have a way of taking on a life of their own. Russia is moving warships into the region. Ya wanna start WW3? Just get involved in this crap.

    Ya do not just jump into a fight expecting to be able to slap someone and walk away… they might not let you walk away.

    The problem with making military plans is the enemy generally does not want to cooperate with your plans… that is why they are called the enemy. That is also the reason for the dictum, “All plans fall by the wayside at the moment the first shot is fired”.

    • section9

      The problem with the political people around Obama, as with Obama himself, is that they give the impression of not having a flipping clue about what happens when Austrian Archdukes get assassinated by Serbian Nationalists with a grudge.

    • mikewaller

      Chamberlain could not have done better!

  • george

    Interesting comment from an American on an American publication’s website (NRO):

    ‘Mr. Yoo, with all due respect, this is not our fight. I regret that people are dying. It is not our fault that they are, nor is it our concern as a nation. The manner of their death does not change this. Name ONE national interest of the United States that is advanced by our intervention in Syria – and don’t say “moral standing” or “do it for the children” or we need to “enhance regional stability.” Hogwash. Life is cheap in the Muslim world and they like it that way. That is the way it is. We cannot fix that, nor is it our obligation to do so.

    It IS our obligation to destroy Assad and his allies only if and when they become an existential threat to our nation, and our nation’s children, in which case we actually go to war and win it (i.e. destroy their will to fight so that the threat is actually eliminated – see WWII). That means we go to war, not only with Assad, but his proxies as well. If you are ready to fight for the West, I am all in. As are probably most of my fellow posters (and most of my fellow Americans). But you are merely proposing the “moral case” to “intervene on a limited basis” because “they have crossed into barbarism” and “that cannot stand.” Of course they are barbarians. Unless you are willing to change that (see e.g., Germany, Japan), leave it be’.

  • Iain Hill

    We need a national campaign to ignore Blair and his pronouncements. Total news blackout.

  • Fergus Pickering

    ‘The world cannot stand idly by and watch an evil dictator…’ Oh yes it can and if the dictator is African then it does..

  • https://twitter.com/BalderGot BalderGot

    The UN Security Council is less important than the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Nobel peace prize winner, Barack-Bandar.

  • MAredneck

    Obama is looking for cover, Congress should ask why this is our issue.

  • rlhailssrpe

    Our (the UK and USA) enemies are killing each other. They are savages; they murder women and children. It is a moral evil that cries out to the world to stop the slaughter. This is all true. But which nations are listening? Who will cooperate with the US and maybe the UK to end the tyranny, the murder of innocents? If the entire world only worries about their income, their prosperity, and ignores the cries of the victims, what should we do? Are there any Islamic armies marching to protect butchered Muslims? What Islamic nation asks the Americans to die in defense of their dictator? Turkey forbade American troops access, across their dirt, so we could attack Husein’s Iraq. Does Turkey now want Americans on their soil when the wind carries Sarin to their people? China, India, and Pakistan face each other with WMD, do they care if these weapons are used in combat, against all laws of war?

    The silence in the UK, and the Arab nations, is deafening. Does shame exist on earth?

  • ARMSTROB

    It’s not whether the US and UK go in and make a statement. This would all end immediately if Russia and China said they would no longer sell weapons to anyone who uses gas or any other WMD which they ( Russia and China ) have signed off on. Those are the countries without the moral compass. Syria and especially Iran are confident that Russia/ China will stand up for them something our allies no longer have in the US.

  • Guest

    I’m on the fence on this one…

  • Tangolition

    As cruel as it seems to say, and perhaps ridiculous unless you read until the end, the Syrian war does have a single purpose. The purpose is derived from how it became a conflict. The purpose was and remains (however sick it first appears to be) for this war to be a conflict in which William Hague overstretches himself. The aimed for result being Hague’s permanent exit from politics. Why?

    There are obvious caveats to any “cause or war purpose” blaming one man. Novelists debate endlessly if Hitler slipped on a bar of soap, would WWII have been avoided? Syria was always a bogeyman for the West because of geo-politics. As in 1930s Germany, prior conditions existed for something remarkable to happen, with or without its leader. Enter William Hague on the scene.

    History can view the “Arab Spring” from two camps. One is it is a “new start” for the region. Egypt’s experience puts it in doubt. Another view is it was simply a “chance to end Gadaffi’s rule”. It hinges on what is called “The Bush Doctrine”. A doctrine which is not homage to Bush! American foreign policy is run by doctrines (Monroe Doctrine and then Truman Doctrine). This argues an invasion of Iraq would be perfectly justified if nuclear weapons were found.

    The Bush Doctrine will be with us for a long time because without a threat of Communism (that invalidates the Truman Doctrine’s domino theory) the USA needs a new theory of world governance. It is not a dictatorship that survives on random acts of will from its leader. It needs a framework for its legislative to act.

    So how did The West’s intervention in Libya comply with The Bush Doctrine? In December 2003, following nine months of secret negotiations with the West, Libya was hailed for renouncing WMD and abandoning programmes. British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, applauded what he called Colonel Gaddafi’s “huge statesmanship and courage.” So how did such a reversal in fortune for Gaddafi work? William Hague won American support for his last minute defence of Benghazi in March 2011 by arguing Gaddafi would “re-start” the WMD programs if the revolt failed!

    Libyan action was an abuse of the Bush Doctrine, even though its purpose was noble enough. A nuclear weapon can easily claim the lives of a million people if used in a city.

    William Hague is a strong tactical player but a weak strategic one. Any strategic vision in the value of a so-called Arab Spring is very weak. Those in the camp who believe the Arab Spring was a “chance to get rid of Gaddafi” share no belief in strategic vision of The Arab Spring. Protestors in the street who bring down governments because “they have spoken” will not usher in new democracies. Not when citizenries around the world face sustained higher bread and fuel prices from prolonged global recession.

    The Arab Spring is a bandwagon, Hague chose firmly to ride. Sneaking radios early into Benghazi by way of Special Forces being “captured” is a daring ruse. Similar clandestine tactics are used by Hague in Syria. But what is his mandate?

    The Bush Doctrine must evolve over the coming decades. As a nuclear weapon has not been used in anger since 1945, it is understandable our populations cannot sympathize fully with the grave threat this doctrine seeks to pre-empt. It is an easy mistake to count 10,000 people dead in a gas attack as like the 1,000,000+ a nuclear weapon would kill. It is likely the Bush Doctrine will eventually evolve to concern itself only with nuclear weapons and not gas or biological.

    However America is currently attempting to define “proportionate attack” in response to a gas attack in Syria. It only has a Bush Doctrine to work with. Can America attack any country outside of this mandate provided by the Bush Doctrine? Probably not, but reticence is often disguised with the phrase “the Iraq legacy.” For this reason it is a mistake to compare their options with previous strikes on Serbia or anything else prior to the Iraq invasion. We live in a different world post Iraq. Laborious discussions over a “just war” against the WMD threat prior to the Iraq invasion will not be supplanted by new theories for a long time to come.

    So what is Hague doing with the Arab Spring? Clearly he belongs to the camp which believes it is a “new start” for the region. Returning to the argument about Hitler and the World War II, we have to ask, how much of The Arab Spring is of Hague’s own making? At which point did some few hundred lives lost in Syria because of Assad’s clamp-down on copy-cat protestors become a fully fledged uprising? Should we trust Hague, who intervened so swiftly at a tactical level to save Benghazi, to have kept his feet on the ground in Syria? Was there ever a good strategic argument for the toppling Assad or was it simply the case of lauding another bandwagon as it came into sight? Do we want a foreign secretary who does that?

    William Hague has spent a life in politics. He was not that successful as the Tory party leader in opposition. Not least because of his lack of normality or experience in the business world. He is unlikely to consider such leadership again. So at the moment he is at the pinnacle of his power. 100,000 dead Syrians lie before him. Do not ask me about purpose! My purpose is his permanent exit from the political stage.

    “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5).

  • brian_in_arizona

    “A war without a purpose”…from a President without a plan.

  • http://breakthrough.ru/ Stefana Karinskaya

    The human race has already enough. The two previous
    World Wars should have well taught us that any war either local or global is
    pointless. But for those greedy and avaracious few, nobody would have never
    gone to war. Average people get manipulated. So it appears that devide-and-rule
    motto will eventually drive us all into WWIII to have the humanity killed. That
    will be the Real Judgment Day, and well to our deserves. I can’t help but
    conclude how stupid are those rich who keep on playing with the fire.

    Hi, I’m a Russian girl from
    breakthrough.ru Moscow, Russia

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