Sunday, July 22, 2012

Syria speculations

1.  Me from Aug. 31, responding to William's request for my prescience on Syria:

I'm clearly not too prescient about civil insurrections, but I think the bad guys will win in Syria, at least for the short term. The military hasn't seemed divided there, which is the only way for the unarmed good guys to win.
So, wrong again, somewhat.  Maybe penalties assessed against me could be reduced by my "short term" qualifier.  The Libyan and Syrian civil uprisings started about the same time but the former started peeling off military units immediately while the latter only had random low-level deserters until recent months.

My guess based on other countries has been that people power uprisings have to win quickly, within weeks, or not at all.  I should modify that to say that successful people power uprisings win quickly or not at all, unless they become civil wars which follow a different kind of trajectory.  I still think Syria is unusual though in the length of time it lasted as civil demonstrations before either fading away or transitioning to what it's now become.

2.  Pretty obvious it's a civil war now, and despite the only-recent change in terminology by the Red Cross, it's been a civil war for months now.  Also obvious that Assad's finished, although I still disagree that it was obvious a year ago.  The US government seems to agree he's finished.

3.  As rebels are starting to take territory, although not necessarily hold it, the situation is becoming more like Libya, including a downside that rebels become more vulnerable to air power.  I stand by the argument I made in February that we should provide more direct military assistance to rebels, particularly in creating safe havens.  The tens of thousands of people that have fled to Turkey in just the last few days could still be in a Free Syria, starting to organize the transition.

4.  My argument in February relied on negotiations first, with military assistance as a backstop.  That's changed - unless there's a coup/assassination, negotiations are useless now.

5.  The key issue now is planning that prevents massacres of Alawite and Christian minorities.  Peeling off enough of them to assist the rebels would definitely help.

6.  Speaking of Syrian Christians, it's interesting that conservative American Christians are so aggressive over Syria when most of them were far more reticent to support change in Egypt.  The obvious difference is the attitude of the regimes toward Israel.  I'm guessing conservative American Christians aren't all that interested in the fate of Syrian Orthodox synods.

7.  The rebels in Syria seem even more like a black box than the ones in Libya.  OTOH, things seem to be going okay in Libya (no takers still on my Libya bet offer).

8.  Not sure of the value of my military predictions, but here's one:  Assad won't use chemical weapons.  I believe without evidence that Western nations have secretly communicated to him their guarantee that the gain to him from using them will be outweighed by the Western response.  He might still be tempted to use them in extremis but at that point, hopefully, anyone given the order will realize the personal best option is to disobey/take government succession planning into their own hands.

UPDATE:  forgot to reference the one-month rule that started working in Libya around May 2011 - from then on, setbacks to the rebels never lasted more than 30 days, and each month left them more powerful than the month before.  My guess is the same rule may have started applying in Syria a month or two ago, and a month or two more of the same will indicate the eventual result.


bill said...

It's worth noting, having followed the link back to last year, that Alexander Cockburn - also a creator of hostages to fortune via prediction - died over the weekend.

To my knowledge he never backtracked on his AGW Denial position.

William M. Connolley said...

You forgot to mention Russia. Getting them off Assad's side would make intervention much easier. At the moment I think they are on his side (a) because they have been (b) because they don't want another pro-West state (c) they sense that the West cares about the rebels, and think they (the Russians) might get bought off if we need them.

But pretty soon all this is going to fall apart. As you say, the rebels are going to win. They already have reason to hate Russia, and be (only very mildly) grateful to the West; that will intensify. At some point it will be obvious to the Russians that backing Assad is against their own interests; though likely they'll keep doing it out of stupidity/embarrassement.

cynthia said...

This war in Syria is a foreign funded, foreign armed, coup d'etat operation; and obviously it has been meticulously planned and probably has Western Special Ops elements and foreign intelligence workshops and teams to deal with tricky situations and technical access too, when such things are needed. We have been warned about the comprehensiveness of the massive media operation; but the reality of the internet makes it impossible for this deception to be seamless; and so, bit by bit, the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the operators and the dimensions of this historic aggression against a smaller state by US/NATO/Israel & Gulf State coalition, an unholy alliance if ever there was one.

This is headed for a regional outbreak of a much wider war, or something even worse, if the aggressors whose war aims apparently extend far beyond the borders of Syria, go on to strike at Iran.

John said...

Thanks, Cynthia, for diverting the "machinations-of-Empire-as-sport" drift of this post.

John Puma

Anonymous said...

When you are saying "the bad guys", you are implicitly assuming that the other side are somehow better.

That's precisely the big question mark.

There are two very bad possible outcomes if the rebellion wins:

1- A massive sectarian war. Like Iraq.
2- An Islamist authoritarian regime, with more or less tolerated jihadi havens. Like Taliban Afghanistan.

Of course it's also possible that you might end up with an actual reasonably democratic government, that would protect minorities (Christians, but mostly Alawis/Shias). Certainly the leaders of the rebellion have made all kind of reassuring statements in that direction.

But, 1- people lie and 2- even if these particular leaders are sincere, who's to say that the Really Bad Guys will not simply take over once Assad is done with? Think of Northern Mali, or even Iran.

Brian said...

William - the Russians have a naval base in Syria, the only one in the Mediterranean and the only one outside of the former USSR. I think if the rebels could make a credible commitment to let the Russians keep the base, then they could get the Russians to be neutral.

The problem is at this point I expect Russians are none too popular in Syria - the first elected government will send them packing unless the Russians come up with some hefty aid packages.

Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why they call me "Hey Stoopid".

We tend to think that all wars, including civil wars are the same, in real life, it is not the case.

Sadly, that kind of thinking will get you killed very quickly indeed. Go ask the two US stealth F117 pilots, who were shot down over Serbia, why it is so.

History, of ten thousand years, is littered with examples of leaders who failed to grasp the basic art of war, of using obsolete methods to win the next war.

To compare the current situation in Syria, versus that of Libya, is like comparing wine with vinegar.

In the real world of reality, whilst like all civil wars, past and present, there are no winners and everyone involved is a loser!

Even "Blind Freddy", can see there is a major difference of the history of the continuing behind the scenes civil war in Libya and that of the current one in Syria. Alas, the relatively weak old regime Libyan war machine, were never able to hold the high ground, for one very specific reason. In any war. if you cannot hold the high ground, you will always lose.

As, I said before, in a civil war, there are no winners and the only ones making obscene evil excessive profits at the continuing suffering of all the locals caught in the vicious no win cross fire.

The ones that should be jailed as war criminals, for life, along with the faceless bureaucrats who employ them to sell surplus war toys, are undoubtedly the evil arms dealers, working at the behest of both the local and trans national super powers. The local super power is deliberately funding the fight in order to control the regions "Blue Gold"

Me, I would be looking at the deteriorating situation in Egypt. Egypt, with a high excessive population growth rate, is literally coming apart at the seams, as the corruption generated by greedy foreign interests, is actively feeding basic cause of the unrest.

In short, we have neither seen the whole truth, and are being fed a whole lot of horse hockey half truuths and excessive western media propaganda, to the evil required to justify the means and the evil ends justify the means, so that all residents of Syria, including the Palestinian/Iraqi refugees must suffer.

Thus, it comes to pass, "Baby, You ain't seen nothing yet"!

cui bono

cynthia said...

It appears that Russia and China were bamboozled over the Libyan resolution in the UN that led to the Nato engineered overthrow of the the Khadaffi regime. China lost big time on that one. They will use whatever diplomatic clout that they have to prevent a repeat with Syria. However, do not expect either to risk nuclear war over saving the Assad regime. If the US, UK and France push for war against Syria (using Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the oil monarchies as their tools) Russia will resist using diplomacy but it seems unreasonable for people to expect that they will enter into outright war with Nato to protect Syria. If I were a Russian FP minister I would probably be doing what they are doing -- i.e. raise diplomatic roadblocks but avoid world war.

We should recognize that the US just suffered a major defeat in Iraq and probably another one in Afghanistan. (And given that Israel is most definitely the tail that wags the the American dog, a dumb ass dog at that, a defeat for America is a defeat for Israel.) Iran is the beneficiary of those defeats. The US is now trying to reverse these strategic set backs by going after Syria. We should recognize that the US and Nato have the power to cause considerable problems in the ME. A wounded beast can be one very dangerous beast. If I were China or Russia, I would just sit back and let us thrash around trying to undo the strategic set backs in Iraq and Afghanistan. No question but that the US will cause some serious damage, but it is better to let us thrash around than have us enter into some international world war.

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

I saw a report the Russians told Syria government to forget the chemical weapons.

The situation in Mauritania is disturbing. Lot of refugees because men with guns have come in and are beating people on the street for not being Islamic enough. Many refugees say many of the men have 'long beards'. Apparently outside extremists.

Tristan Gall said...

I think that the results of the 'Arab Spring' will be minimal. Just more opaque governance under a different guise.

Syria isn't about good guys vs bad guys. It's the same old oppressor-oppressed story which doesn't imply anything inherently positive about the oppressed. They simply aren't getting the spoils of the oppression.

It'll be some years before we can judge the efficacy of regime changes in places like Libya and Egypt. Sure things might look brighter initially but just wait till various inconvenient elements of the 'democratic' model start getting pruned.