Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The only thing

The agenda of fear and hate driving conservative candidates for president today is the last thing we should do. So what to do, instead. There's Duncan Black on one side saying, do less blowing up. Kind of vague, but not meaningless. Josh Marshall on the other hand says do more blowing up of ISIS (also stop blowing up Assad, but the main thing is blow up ISIS).

I'm somewhere in between but think I'd lean more towards the pretentious one's argument. Many people have reminded Republicans that it was their invasion of Iraq that put us in this fine mess. Less remarked is that ISIS talked a big game in the caliphate's first year, but pretty much concentrated on local genocide, rape, and enslavement - we were blowing them up first before they got to Paris. Maybe people don't make this argument because of the whole genocide thing - the pretentious Duncan sure glosses over that.

I'm no expert but I read history, and in World War II neither side liked getting bombed, making efforts to retaliate more for domestic consumption than out of real strategy. From the Doolittle Raid to the V-2, the motivation basically was to strike back.

Duncan's right that blowing up ISIS creates problems, although not blowing them up in some situations allows them to create genocide. So I'd say do more blowing up when needed to stop genocide despite the risk of retaliation, but getting rid of ISIS where it has some popular support isn't our job. Especially in Iraq, the campaign in Anbar province might be going too well - the Iraqi Shiite government is succeeding in taking over Sunni areas without real Sunni participation. That sounds like a recipe for future problems, and not where the rest of the world needs to tread.

Syria is a bit different, Sunnis are fighting both ISIS and Assad. I once favored a safe zone in the northwest, assuming Turkey's government would be less-than-evil about who got through. I don't know if that could still happen - maybe. Containing ISIS while locals figure out how to handle them seems like a better approach, and it would mean less bombing than we're doing now. Maybe that would work, like Duncan says. Working with Assad would be a huge mistake and again not where the rest of the world needs to tread.

Paris was a tragedy. There are many other tragedies. Let's make things better instead of worse.


John said...

The 2nd invasion of Iraq, of which you speak, was NOT simply a GOP production.
At least half of the Dems approved.

Further, the 2nd invasion of Iraq may be cited as the beginning of ISIS, per se, but not of Islamic terrorism.

See the following article for a history of the West's recent war against Islam:

The following links summarize the bloody establishment of the US empire:

Those who wage perpetual war seem attracted not to avoid repeating history but precisely to reap the well-establised profits therefrom. Is "our side" needs to sacrifice a few lives in the pursuit of that profit, let it be considered merely an "external" cost of doing business. (Note similarity to ACC as a direct result of the obsessive capitalist search for ever-growing profit.)

The overriding idiocy is the surprise, indignation and sanctimony that follows the completely predictable retaliation against us.

The question is: which comes first: our demise due to ACC or, instead, the West's demise due to "successfully" radicalizing ALL (1.7 billion and climbing) of Islam instead of a maximum of a thousandth of a percent of it.

John Puma

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

The history of "blowing up" terrorists is not promising. It seems to create more recruits than it eliminates. The real question is whether the risks of eliminating the ISIS Caliphate are worth the costs. It's unlikely that it can be accomplished without direct Western action.

Aaron said...

The first rule of AGW is that drought reduces land's carrying capacity and food must be imported. That results in local poverty.

The second rule of AGW is that hungry young men blow things up.

The Paris bombers may have been European nationals, but they were not seeing a comfortable future in Europe. They did not have wives and healthy babies with a promising future.

We can bomb, but that only creates more hungry young men, and killing all the young men in a region is a war crime.

The only way to solve the "bombing problem" is to show young men a path to a comfortable and promising future. Jihad worked in the past because it reduced population pressures and redistributed wealth. Some Jihadists went to heaven; and, some got wives, flocks, and grazing land.

Brian said...

Aaron - yes there's a Malthusian component to all wars, including Syria's current one. About 1% of the population has been killed directly, probably many more have died from increased mortality rates, and a large number of refugees are never going back. When Syria settles down someday, there may be more high-quality ag land available for the average farmer.

Of course the rest of Syria's economy is in shambles. We can do better than Malthusian outcomes, even though climate change is pushing in the worst direction.


How much of the exodus of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan , Muslims from Afghanistan and India , or Greeks and Armenians from Turkey does Brian atribute to the last century's one degree delta T ?

EliRabett said...

Enough. You are confusing average with extreme

Anonymous said...

You know, for an intelligent man, Russell sure says some stupid things.

Unknown said...

Unless you know a hell of a lot more about Syria than Josh Landis at Syria Comment, don't write off working with Assad.

Dr Landis' recent interview at
is a comprehensive survey of the unhappy choices facing the USA and other players in the Syrian war.

Brian said...

I read the first part of Landis, probably should read the whole thing. He has some good points, but I think he misses the destabilizing effect of Assad (Syria's implosion is Assad's fault). The dismissal of the benefits of democracy is also disappointing and refuted by facts, once you drop democracy as religion and view it as the worst governmental form except for all the rest.

People don't often talk about Lebanon as a model, but they haven't been killing each other within Lebanon on a large scale for quite a few years. Maybe that's the best case scenario for Syria, after someone in Syria's military launches a coup.

John said...

Three points:

(1) Josh Marshall is one of those great geniuses who gave us the war in Iraq. See for example

this link

He's a liberal hawk. It's not just the fault of George W. Bush and the neoconservatives.

(2) Syria has until recently been a US ally. For example, Syria sent troops to help the US politically in the first Persian Gulf war. Syria has been a US ally in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). When the US wants to have some person tortured for information, they can send the poor guy to Syria. That was the fate of (for example) of Meher Arar, a Canadian citizen. (Uncertain about spelling his name right).

(3) If the US is serious about opposing ISIS, the US ought to work with the forces who are actually doing most of the fighting against ISIS, including the Syrian govt, the Russians, and Iran. And the US could lean on Saudia Arabia to stop financing ISIS, and the US could lean on its client state, Turkey, to close the Turkish/Syrian border to ISIS.

John said...

The harrowing account of MaherArar (this time I spelled his name right) can be found on the
website of the Center for Constitutional Rights ( in a PDF entitled Rendition to torture.
It shows how the cooperative US/Syrian effort worked until recently. It's THE classic case of "extraordinary rendition".


Before blaming the weather, snarkratic despots shoud note where Turkey has been buiding dams

Blogger profile said...

Before ignoring the climate change, Rustle should look up what "average" and "extreme" means.


Before setting finger to keyboard BP should look at the Syrian rainfall stats- and note the scale chane bwtween the recent and 1900-2012 sets.

Blogger profile said...

Before telling others how to change, Rustle needs to clean up his own back yard. Before telling others to think before typing, Rustle needs to think. Or ask nurse to do the thinking for him while he sups his cocoa.

Brian said...

John, thanks for the link about Josh Marshall, I wasn't aware of that. It would be interesting given his current rejection of simply containing ISIS to have him confront his past rejection of simply containing Saddam.

I suppose Marshall could say that he did call for one last inspection round, which if it hadn't been curtailed could've supported IAEA's statement that they didn't see evidence of a nuclear program.

Ed Darrell said...

The real issue is the long haul, and whether we're in it for the long haul.

A quick, shorthand example: When the U.S.-trained al Quaeda forces successfully persuaded the Soviets to pull out of Afghanistan in the 1988-1989, the U.S. lost interest in Afghanistan and stopped spending there.

Yes, there were tensions leading to civil war. Lack of well-running governmental entities contributed a lot to that unrest. Taliban stepped in and, among other things, set up schools with the help of funding from rather extreme Saudi Arabian sources. In those madrassahs boys (not girls) got education in the Qu'ran, and little else. A decade or so of that, and there is no good core of educated citizens to carry out many functions.

Why didn't the U.S. step in with aid to build schools? Well, it would have cost a lot . . .

But if we're in it for the long haul, we will have to spend such moneys, not just for schools, but for water and sewer systems, especially roads, electronic infrastructure, support to make agricultural markets, etc., etc. All the things the Peace Corps, USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other organizations used to do, especially under the Marshall Plan.

What we need is a series of new Marshall Plans, for any nation rebuilding from war, or from natural disaster, or from any other cause.

That will all cost a lot of money. It would be cheaper than war, but it will cost money.

Who, today, celebrates George Marshall and proposes to carry on that legacy, to turn combatants into trading partners?

Brian said...

I disagree with the conventional wisdom that arming the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s was a mistake. The USSR was a much bigger problem for the world overall than Al Qaeda/ISIS are. The big mistake was letting Pakistan control the shipments since they funneled them to the worst elements. We might have been able to negotiate an end to arming them with Gorbachev - I think Reagan was late in realizing change was real in the USSR and could have helped get a better transition there.

As for non-military aid, yes we should do more. It's not just a matter of money. The amount of aid spent in Iraq was trivial compared to the military spending there. It's a cultural/political thing, here in the US.