Thursday, April 06, 2017

Attack The Syrian Government?

I have zero expertise, I'm just thinking out loud:
   When I was younger, I was very gung-ho about humanitarian intervention. I still think we should at least go for low-hanging humanitarian fruit. Now I'm less optimistic in general about the effectiveness of such interventions. But more to the point: my thought right now is: maybe no intervention in this case. All other reasons aside, our current President does not have what it takes to oversee such an undertaking.
   Even aside from that: first, it isn't clear that we can fix this situation. Second, even if there's a decent change of fixing it, it doesn't always have to be us. Third, as awful as the situation is, I'm just not sure it's worth risking military confrontation with Russia. And again the other thought: even if this were a situation in which intervention was (were?) the smart move with, e.g., an Obama or even a Bush '43 in office, I don't think we can risk it with Trump in office. I certainly hope everyone else (er...other than Putin and Assad, of course...) is reflecting on that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The possible confrontation with Russia is probably the strongest argument against intervention, but there are so many others. For one, the only viable anti-Assad forces seem to be terrorist proxies. The strongest of them is probably ISIS, even after a couple of years of relentless shelling. And ISIS are genocidal maniacs. No morally sane person should trade Assad for ISIS, or their lesser known rivals. Even if Assad sometimes deploys chemical weapons.

The general humanitarian intervention case needs more thought too. The archetypal case is Rwanda. The idea is basically "surgical" deployment of American troops can stop imminent genocide. But deploying troops means taking sides, and that means inserting the might of the strongest military the world has ever seen into a tribal fight gone berserk. I am not at all confident that the result will actually be lower loss of life. In fact, I suspect we risk a substantial increase in loss of life. But we will have Done Something.

Perhaps another way to put it is humanitarian intervention might give us a minor decrease in mean suffering in Rwanda-like cases while greatly increasing tail-risks to the negative.

Another interesting point: Saddam Hussein was likely a more brutal dictator than even Assad. After all, he gassed even more of his citizens than Assad, along with everything else he did. If we have a humanitarian reason to oust Assad (or keep the civil war trying to oust him on life support), then we should have had one for Hussein as well. Do you think any intervention in Iraq would have lowered the total death count, or really total human suffering, over the 2003-2008 time span? After all, that is the purpose of humanitarian intervention, presumably.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Thanks for this, A.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

So far the response has been to blow the airbase from which the attack was launched. I am hoping that the next step is a no-fly zone. I am a bit surprised there wasn't one already in place, to prevent things like this. Republican claims that no-fly zones don't work are just wrong.

I am currently more concerned about the stepped up drone program (and this after Trump criticized the practice under Obama.) The drone program, with faceless unseen death in the sky, is a very efficient way to make more enemies.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> that no-fly zones don't work are just wrong.

Maybe. However, are we really okay with establishing a no-fly zone with Russia maintaining a strong presence in the region?

1:00 PM  

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