You should probably not take your serious geopolitical analysis from a drunken essayist . That being said, for entertainment purposes, here’s my take.
On Tuesday, someone in Syria dropped nerve gas on a busy street full of civilians.
It is not wholly clear who. This is becoming the norm, as the public has joined the world’s intelligence operatives in the “wilderness of mirrors” – an unreality of misdirection and competing lies. Then again, the former certainty of reading only heavily consolidated media was not knowledge of truth either. Nothing is new, except perhaps a greater variety of lies.
To appreciate the total role reversals and upside-down swings common in the Wilderness, consider that at the time of writing, far-leftists are attacking right-wing anti-war demonstrators in Washington, and calling them fascists for rejecting military interventionism.
This is what exposure to the mind games that run the world does to the brains of unprepared proletarians. This is the greatest takeaway from the last year – a skilled operator can make anyone support or oppose anything. Human rationality is a wet reed in a maelstrom.
Therefore, assume my judgment is no better than yours. But. Going on imperfect information and what I like to call a good nose for bullshit, I don’t think it was Assad. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of his – it could be, say, a rogue officer seeking to damage the regime. The public will probably never know for sure. The point is, there are many more options than “Assad” and “rebels”.
What appears certain is that someone in Syria used chemical weapons – the chemical weapons Russia vouchsafed in 2013 would all be removed. That’s an embarrassment for Putin. If it turns out the Russians knew of or even assisted in the attack, they’re so fucked.
All that be as it may, Trump’s subsequent move was smart.
He couldn’t sit on his hands, because his top priority is defining himself in contrast to the roll-over-and-take-it-in-the-ass-while-singing-John-Lennon’s-Imagine Obama-era policy of managed decline of western civilization and global power.
With one move, he:
- Sent a message to the world’s villains that America is back in business. Kim Jong Un should be shitting bricks now – China will throw him overboard if needed. Trump was dining with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago just as the tomahawks were raining down, a well-planned coincidence. Much recalculation is now happening in China, Iran and Russia.
- Gained support among the Washington establishment and the “deep state”, which was previously actively plotting against him by its own admission, and is now probably split in half, and uprooted any conspiracy theories about Trump serving Russians (who are furious) anything but humble pie. This was his biggest problem, and it went away overnight.
- Defined Trump in opposition to Obama’s impotent bluffing and backing down from supposed “red lines” – emboldening all the worst actors, reportedly because Iran threatened to back out of the tragicomically bad nuclear deal it has meanwhile violated anyway. Trump’s message is “The new America means business”.
Perceptions and persuasion-wise, it is an artful move that solves several of his main problems at once.
While there’s a special place in my loathing for people whose positions on important issues are shaped by sad pictures, it is noteworthy that many people who hated Trump are now reluctantly supporting and even admiring his move.
Conversely, the temper tantrums and withdrawal of support for Trump by notorious alt-news shit cannons such as Paul Joseph Watson and Cassandra Fairbanks was instrumental in unmasking which prominent figures in the pro-Trump movement were actually, unlike Trump himself, Russian lackeys (as if it wasn’t evident from employment at Sputnik and Infowars, and retweeting of RT state propaganda). Their departure will help “Trumpism” become a more mainstream and legitimate political movement.
The emotional Russian response is because of what Syria is really about for them – the naval base at Tartus. Quite as Crimea is about Sevastopol.
So, to get Russia on board with regime change, why not guarantee their lease on Tartus?
It means the world to them and, to be honest, is virtually worthless as a military asset. Low-tech navies are almost as irrelevant in modern warfare as tanks – expensive target practice for actual modern weaponry. The Russian navy is reminiscent of the Polish sabre-wielding cavalry charging against tanks. Let them have their base.
The Russian infatuation with their navy is an emotional affair due to tradition, nostalgia and symbolism, and probably a disproportionate influence of the admirals on the Kremlin, more than utility and any rational assessment of 21st century military realities.
Then again, their outrage is also a calculated move: “We respect what you just did as fellow players, and our countermove is calculated hysteria comparable to a Sicilian domestic dispute” – “Russia tells US relationship is ruined”- wholly in character for Lavrov and Medvedev. Like all important interactions, big geopolitics is layered.
Judge the truth of that paragraph by the amount of meaningful action Russia takes – which I expect will be minimal.
“OMFG this was an attack on a sovereign country”
On a country that has repeatedly gassed civilians. In terms of relative seriousness of offence, it’s like driving on the wrong side of the road to take down a terrorist. Most of the world agrees it is legitimate enforcement of international norms.
The American strike, which is supported by most civilised countries, may have been in breach of international law (slightly), while chemical attacks on civilians are in breach of international law and the Geneva convention (deeply), and Russia has been abusing international law (heavily) to block consensus in the UN Security Council to protect its puppet dictator and draw out a conflict that has claimed half a million lives to date.
Also, Ukraine and Georgia – that’s what attacks on sovereign countries look like.
“Look at Trump’s old tweets against any intervention in Syria, he is contradicting himself lol the total bumbling fool”
It is almost as if thinking people change their minds about things based on new information (a lot of it unknown to the general public) and new developments.
What kind of idiot takes cheap shots at someone for changing his mind after learning new things?
“Omg if we depose Assad, what’s the plan next? Unless you can tell me what the weather will be and what colour the flowerpots in the window of the Syrian interior ministry on May 29th, 2098, you shouldn’t do anything about dictators gassing children, you impulsive maniacs.”
The “we shouldn’t do anything unless we can predict and plan the entire future” argument, which is virtually never made in good faith, and is intended to induce paralysis and indecision, and frame any action taken as reckless and hasty.
“You shouldn’t put out the fire in the house unless you know what colour you’re going to paint it afterwards”. 🙄 🙄 🙄
One problem at a time, kay?
That Assad must go is evident. Subsequent problems will be addressed subsequently.
“Ololol have the stupid Americans learned nothing from their painful endless campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq?”
They have, which is precisely why Syria will never be another Afghanistan or Iraq. There won’t be any large-scale deployment.
Tomahawking (Stephen Tomahawking, hur hur hur, ahem) the dictator’s airforce, which saved his ass from advancing rebels several times over, is a clever and comparatively super-cheap way of tilting the balance without getting involved in any of the messy stuff on the ground.
“Ehrmahgerd this will only help ISIS.”
There are more than two sides in the conflict.
So, what comes next in Syria?
In the coming days, we can expect US-Russia brinksmanship and game of chicken, but ultimately nobody wants a war, least of all Russia, which is incomparably the weaker party. Russia backed down even from a confrontation with Turkey. (Meanwhile, Turkey has worryingly taken steps away from NATO).
In fact, the only areas where Russia has first-rate military capability are cyber, nuclear and, shockingly, chemical and biological.
Russia is entirely aware it wouldn’t stand the slightest chance of winning any conventional conflict against the west. Its only hope is deterrence by projecting an image of even greater insanity than is the case, like a small man freshly in the showers of a maximum security prison.
Except the small insane man has started behaving that way in the showers of a public swimming pool where nobody had any intention of harming him.
The Russian Federation was not under any kind of attack from the west – except an invitation to become a regular, equal member of the international community, which to Russian ears understanding only the binary choice of dominance and submission, is an attack – and its defence against hallucinatory offence constitutes a series of unprovoked attacks on much of the rest of the world. Paranoia is making the Kremlin lash out against merely perceived threats, which looks like aggressively violent insanity from a sober perspective. True to bully logic, Russia perceives its victims’ defence as an attack on itself.
In the ultimate reckoning, Syria is not important enough for Russia to risk WW3 over.
Predictions for the medium term:
1. Assad will be deposed.
2. Free Kurdistan – or at least autonomous. They deserve it.
3. Walled-off giga-prison camp for ISIS in inland Syria. If you think that sounds far-fetched, know the southern section is already being built.
4. Internationally monitored free elections.
5. New equilibrium, probably in new borders.
Migrant (and refugee) flows will stop (or be greatly reduced), and Europe will stabilise, or at least stop getting more destabilised with every boatload of bewildered refumigrants.
Syria was a prime example of what’s wrong with Middle Eastern governance and mentality, with autocracy serving as a cork on a volcano of tribal, ethnic and sectarian resentments going back hundreds if not thousands of years. The desert kingdoms should work on reconciling these differences, all of which are idiotic from the ground up, and work towards a pluralist, participative and compromising mindset. Otherwise, their options will forever remain either repressive government or constant fratricidal wars.
The world’s villains should get used to the new reality of the west punching back. Assad operated on an assumption of impunity that Trump has just taken away from him. He’ll take every step with hesitation now. The only thing the criminals in the Kremlin respect is an even stronger force. There’s one.
Both the risk-reward and cost-benefit ratios of this operation were exceptionally good.
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