Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Links

  • Edward Snowden impersonated top level NSA officials to steal documents.  Fits my hypothesis about him.
  • Indian government to ban use of US email services for official communication.  There's going to be a lot more of this kind of thing, I think.
  • Kevin Drum bashes the Obama administration over Syria.  My general sense is that there are no good options here.  If we, collectively, do nothing, we are no doubt in for an ongoing and regular diet of headlines and youtube videos of Syrian kids being massacred with nerve gas.  Being able to clear neighborhoods cheaply is pretty handy for a dictator with his back to the wall and Assad will do it again if he thinks he can.  On the other hand, a limited bombing campaign is likely to be illegal, unpopular, and fairly ineffectual, particularly given the warning the Syrian government has had.  On the third hand, a major involvement in the war would be very costly in lots of ways, and it's completely unclear that the end result would be a better regime.  Anyone who suggests there are any simple good options here isn't thinking it through.  It's fairly likely to suck regardless of what we do, just in different ways.

9 comments:

Burk Braun said...

Nevertheless... we have many interests in seeing the Syria situation turning out better than worse, so it does make sense for us to act in ways that dis-empower both Assad and the Al Qaeda end of the rebels. Even with bad options and bad information, if we can act to make the world a better place, by our best lights, that is worth doing. For instance, a no-fly zone over the whole country would be a positive step.

James said...

I'm not 100 percent convinced that Asad has ordered the use of chemical weapons. The current news stories remind me a great deal of the run up to the Iraq war during which we were constantly hearing about Sadam's WMDs (which turned out to be non-existant). WMDs were the hot button issue to garner support for the Iraq war, and chemical weapons seem to be playing a similar role in the current discussion of whether we should intervene militarily in Syria.

It seems to me that Asad has far more to lose from such use than he has to gain. I think Gaddafi could have defeated the Libyan rebels if those rebels had not received air support from Nato.

James said...

On an optimistic note, I can imagine a scenario where western intervention (probably in the form of a no fly zone) would cause Asad to double down and hold democratic elections. Most people would find that hard to envision - but Asad is western educated and lived in London for years. If faced with a very real possibility of military defeat I can imagine him opting to follow in the footsteps of Daniel Noriega (who is, by the way, currently ruling Nicaragua).

That would be great.

sunbeam said...

Yeah, and remember the stories about the Iraqis dumping babies out of incubators when they invaded Kuwait, in the drumbeat for Gulf War I?

Testimony before congress and all. Guess that is on youtube somewhere.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p25s02-cogn.html/%28page%29/2

"The key moment occurred on October 10, when a young woman named Nayirah appeared in front of a congressional committee. She told the committee, "I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the babies on the cold floor to die."

Hill & Knowlton immediately faxed details of her speech to newsrooms across the country, according to CBC's Fifth Estate's documentary. The effect was electric. The babies in incubator stories became a lead item in newspapers, and on radio and TV all over the US.

It is interesting that no one – not the congressmen in the hearing, or any journalist present – bothered to find out the identity of the young woman. She was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States, and actually hadn't seen the "atrocities" she described take place. (When later confronted with the lack of evidence for her claims, the young woman said that she hadn't been in the hospital herself, but that a friend who had been there had told her about it. )"

Funny how absolutely no one in Congress brought up the fact that her father was the ambassador to the US. Exactly when would she have seen what she was testifying to? And no representative recognized her? The Kuwaiti ambassador must have been really obscure.

I don't know what's going on in Syria. I don't trust the news media we have to find out, or to tell me if they do.

So I pay absolutely no attention to Syria. And if I made the decisions, I would do and say absolutely nothing about it.

If someone believes these stories (and they may be true), tell them to google the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and put their buttocks, time, and money on the line.

Personally I've had enough.

Alex said...

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2013/08/barack_obama_shouldn_t_bomb_syria_the_good_option_is_to_do_nothing.html

Poechewe said...

“This is why you don’t hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.”

Actually, brilliant people are attracted to intelligence work. Von Neumann and Turing are good examples. One of the most brilliant was Admiral Canaris, Hitler's military spy chief. Canaris despised Hitler and sometimes helped the British more than Hitler.

I would take that NBC News article with a grain of salt, including the number of employees. Snowden is proof that the NSA is a sprawling organization that grew rapidly in recent years and that invites many of its own problems. It needs to be reformed. And much stronger ethics and accountability need to underlie its activities.

As for Syria, a two to three day strike that stops completely "might" be useful. There were reports that Assad may have used chemical weapons some time ago. If true, the lack of response may have encouraged the most recent episode. Lots of ifs. Seems to be the nature of the times.

Big Gav said...

After the Iraq experience I'm pretty dubious Assad made any chemical attack at all. It would seem to be a suicidal move from his point of view.

chapter24 said...

It's sad that anyone dies, by any means. Chemical weapons are abhorrent, but their use has the same results as bullets. Fixation about chemical weapons (500 dead) while tolerating death by other means (100,000 dead) is peculiar. Reported comments by US politicians that lack of blood on the dead victims is intolerable are typical of their muddled and irrational approach.

Ultimately this civil war will be resolved by the main parties agreeing to stop. The US should be using all of the legal means at its disposal to convince Russia and China that it's also in their interests to see a solution. Try as I might I cannot envisage how illegal bombing of the Syrian regime will help to expedite a solution and encourage respect for international law, which is presumably why the US has not already launched the missiles. More innocent people will die. If the Syrian opposition released the sarin then they will be encouraged to do so again.

In the end, the world can only encourage respect for the rule of law by abiding by the law and enforcing it. If Assad has indeed authorised use of chemical weapons then there should be nowhere in the world for him to hide, and he should be assured of being hunted and brought to justice.

Danilo Bertocchi said...

Syria is missing water and overpopulated. This is a self regulation process willing to come back with population sustained by local resources. In europe, we have the feeling partisans of action are interested by oil geo-strategic purpose. Ex-filtering the leader and judging him in an international criminal court would be another issue.