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9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

Stashed in: Awesome, Russia and Friends, Middle East, International Incidents, Russia, History

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Really good FAQ that explains why Obama is pushing for a limited strike at Syria, even though everyone knows it's kind of pointless.

This sounds awful:

The killing started in April 2011, when peaceful protests inspired by earlier revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia rose up to challenge the dictatorship running the country. The government responded — there is no getting around this — like monsters. First, security forces quietly killed activists. Then they started kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing activists and their family members, including a lot of children, dumping their mutilated bodies by the sides of roads. Then troops began simply opening fire on protests. Eventually, civilians started shooting back. Fighting escalated from there until it was a civil war. Armed civilians organized into rebel groups.

There is no end in sight. So why think about bombing Syria?

It’s true that basically no one believes that this will turn the tide of the Syrian war. But this is important: it’s not supposed to. The strikes wouldn’t be meant to shape the course of the war or to topple Assad, which Obama thinks would just make things worse anyway. They would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future military leader in any future war, from using them again.

Oh and let's not forget that there are almost 2 million Syrian refugees stressing the humanitarian systems of neighboring countries:

2 million refugees in a population of 22 million is incredibly bad.

Worse, half of the Syrian refugees children.

Why Russia and Iran are protecting Syria:

Russia is Syria’s most important ally. Moscow blocks the United Nations Security Council from passing anything that might hurt the Assad regime, which is why the United States has to go around the United Nations if it wants to do anything. Russia sends lots of weapons to Syria that make it easier for Assad to keep killing civilians and will make it much harder if the outside world ever wants to intervene.

The four big reasons that Russia wants to protect Assad, the importance of which vary depending on whom you ask, are: (1) Russia has a naval installation in Syria, which is strategically important and Russia’s last foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union; (2) Russia still has a bit of a Cold War mentality, as well as a touch of national insecurity, which makes it care very much about maintaining one of its last military alliances; (3) Russia also hates the idea of “international intervention” against countries like Syria because it sees this as Cold War-style Western imperialism and ultimately a threat to Russia; (4) Syria buys a lot of Russian military exports, and Russia needs the money.

Iran’s thinking in supporting Assad is more straightforward. It perceives Israel and the United States as existential threats and uses Syria to protect itself, shipping arms through Syria to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas. Iran is already feeling isolated and insecure; it worries that if Assad falls it will lose a major ally and be cut off from its militant proxies, leaving it very vulnerable. So far, it looks like Iran is actually coming out ahead: Assad is even more reliant on Tehran than he was before the war started.

I love the musical break in point #5.

If you want to go old-school you should listen to the man, the legend, the great Omar Souleyman (playing Brooklyn this Saturday!). Or, if you really want to get your revolutionary on, listen to the infectious 2011 anti-Assad anthem “Come on Bashar leave.” The singer, a cement mixer who made Rage Against the Machine look like Enya,was killed for performing it in Hama. But let’s listen to something non-war and bit more contemporary, the soulful and foot-tappable George Wassouf:

Hope you enjoyed that, because things are about to go from depressing to despondent.

Max Fisher is right. The answers to questions 6-9 are heartbreaking.

All bullshit. Putin/Russia supports Assad/Syria for 2 reasons:  1) He HATES radical islam, ever since he crushed Chechnya in 99 and it's his most consistent foreign policy position. 2) He LOVES maintaining Gazprom's near monopoly on the European natural gas market. Qatar (and to a lesser extend the Saudis) have wanted to build a pipeline across Syria (and Turkey, depending on specifics) for years in order to better exploit Qatar's massive gas fields.

Good points.


"They have a mandate to say whether a chemical attack occurred but not to apportion blame," Dr Shanahan cautions. "First, they have to establish whether an incident occurred [it is still disputed by some] and at what level the action was authorised. It is plausible that Assad didn't authorise it but a local commander did."


Habibi, as long as there's oil in the middle east, and places around that oil that need to remain pacified in order to convey fuel products safely into the first world's SUVs and homes, there will not be peace in the middle east...

Haram ...  It's a sad story seemingly without end.

So alternative energy is the only way out of this mess, and it will take a generation or more.

Well, yes, shifting the focus from extraction to generation would help a good deal.  Let's do it, but also be aware that it would merely redistribute the problem of negative externalities to other geographies unless better systemic approaches to capital formation and fully allocated costs were designed into the industry at the get go.  

Ideally, a more comprehensive expectation of total lifecycle internal and external costs would be applied to capital formation, investment and returns from profit seeking opportunities...this is already taking root in the emerging social entrepreneur and impact investing sectors.  There are more and more organizational efforts to bring social innovation into product development as a cradle to cradle option (implicating costs of raw materials throughout the supply chain, consumer transactions and ultimate resource recycling and reclamation).

In any above scenario, as consumers we can help accelerate these upgrades while speeding the decline of outdated, industrial interest formed on raping the public commons and shifting their full costs of extractive resource consumption by voting with our consumer dollars and buying "better" products, withholding dollars from the more egregious bastards and simply changing daily behaviors (e.g. walk, ride a bike, buy a Tesla) as much as is practical for us.  Whatever little each of us can do daily at this point will definitely move the needle.  And it's the daily stuff, the little stuff, that has the most profound and far reaching effects.

In upgrading any system the challenge is gradually overcoming issues of structural inertia and behavioral habituation which initially obscure the plentitude of better options.   It is less that we have a blind eye or true ignorance--we know what's better.  We also have plenty of immediately viable and upgraded options for reframing our daily choices.  It's more that we simply must exert a will to act and adopt those better behavioral choices, which then will cascade into net positive outcomes.  The personal and creative opportunity is aligning those choices in whatever ways we can to make ourselves feel better about making them every day.  

Make it fun, get it done.

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