The Case Against Supporting The Rebels In Syria

Where have we heard the use or potential use of chemical weapons as a pretext for military intervention before? Oh, that’s right, it was the central plank of the “case” for the Coalition of the Willing and their invasion of Iraq. Of course, it wasn’t for oil considering that Chinese firms are the biggest beneficiaries of Iraqi oilfields these days, but it incurred a tremendous cost of life, limb and property in order to create a power vacuum in the Middle East filled by Iranian backed gangs on the Shiite side and Gulf backed gangs on the Sunni side.

There is no reason why the West should support the rebels in Syria. All of the humanitarian concerns are nonsensical. If humanitarian intervention was ever justified, where is the intervention in the Congo? Where was the effective intervention in Southern Sudan? Where was the effective intervention in the Balkans as opposed to “staying neutral” while massacres took place under the watch of the mythical blue berets of the United Nations?

The Middle East is a really screwed up place – and removing the regime of Bashar al-Assad and letting sectarian violence destroy Syria isn’t a success story anyone capable of thinking clearly could endorse.

Assad is essentially the lesser of multiple evils here. In a proxy war between Iran, which supports Hezbollah and the Assad regime, and the United States, which supports the rebels of various stripes, further Western military involvement is not a good thing.

You know how some naive people got worked up about the Arab Spring and the myth of democracy being able to function in the Middle East? Well, now there is an Islamist government in Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood. They’re not moderate at all – they were founded to promote Islamic states and they have succeeded after a lot of carnage.

Remember the intervention in Libya that took down big bad Gaddafi and his pilfering offspring? Well, the US soon realised that the Libyan military’s warehouses had been looted. They had been covertly buying up weapons from Libya and shipping them into Syria when the Benghazi consulate was attacked and the US ambassador murdered last year.

The weapons that flowed from Gaddafi’s military into various rebel groups also flowed into the hands of the local al-Queda franchise. They destablilised Mali and then hijacked an oil refinery in Algeria after the French invaded and stopped Mali from turning into an Islamist hell on earth.

Now, Assad supported al-Queda and other groups in Iraq. They’ve relabelled themselves and completely hijacked the non-Islamic part of the Syrian rebellion. We should acknowledge that if the US is supporting the rebels, they are essentially supporting their enemies in order to topple someone (Assad) who is an enemy but not a problem except for “looking weak” and needing to distract the world from the NSA leakers revelations.

It is clear that the only country who has thought through the implications of the collapse of Assad’s government is Russia. They face their own problems with Islamist groups in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. Another Islamic state is not in their interests. A dictatorship they can do business with is better than an entity where their own homegrown terrorists can go and train.

We have to remember here that there are two different worlds in the US government. There is the Pentagon world and the Foggy Bottom world. The Pentagon world is allied with defence, energy, Israel, the military and the Republican party. The Foggy Bottom (State Department) world is aligned with NGOs, the UN, the Democratic party and Palestine.

We can see that an Obama administration, blurring the lines between the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom worlds with its drone strikes and pre-emptive special forces operations that involve smuggling arms to the rebels already is an entirely new arrangement.

The reinstatement of Susan Rice as National Security Advisor – when she has no national security experience whatsoever – in the aftermath of the Benghazi scandal, shows that political hackery trumps actual experience.

There is no need for the US to support the rebels in Syria. They already have patrons in Saudi Arabia / Qatar for the Sunnis. The Alawites, of which Assad is, are a minority who would be the victims of genocide if the Assad regime collapses. Supporting the rebels is supporting a genocide that would exceed the Assad family’s internal suppression victims over the past few decades.

Using the pretext of chemical weapons use against rebels to support them over the Assad regime is a sign of ignorance. Although dictatorships are inherently unstable, when they come under pressure, if they successfully use military force to suppress the dissent without external influence that is preferable to some nebulous doctrine of humanitarian intervention which has been proven in just my lifetime to be a selective use of force against a target that wins votes and popularity in the wake of a scandal.

The Arms Trade Treaty Conceit

New Zealand will lead the way as one of the first countries to sign the landmark Arms Trade Treaty, adopted by the United Nations, which opens for signature in New York today.

Source: NZ Herald

The news that New Zealand will sign a piece of paper that will apparently make it harder for people who want to kill other people to obtain a means of killing other people efficiently isn’t going to change a thing.

Cognitive dissonance theory explains human behavior by positing that people have a bias to seek consonance between their expectations and reality.

When you know that arms sales is big business for the US, Germany, France, Russia, China and even Sweden the reality about arms sales is quite clear. When you realise that countries have interests that they seek to protect as opposed to some sort of objective guidelines for their strategic behaviour, you’ll realise that silly pieces of paper like this are stupid.

But let’s think about what the participants in the process got out of it.

  1. A lot of first class flights, hotel rooms and dinners were expensed in pursuit of this piece of paper.
  2. An enormous number of officials will feel good about themselves because they are engaged in self-actualising work that could change the world.
  3. Small countries who are irrelevant (like New Zealand) get to claim credit for being responsible global citizens while simultaneously not doing anything about their own contribution to questionable practices in global trade.

The hypocrisy of voting for a piece of paper that seeks to restrict the arms trade, while not commenting on US support for rebels in Libya (they supported Al-Queda) and Syria (they’re supporting Al-Queda inadvertently) is mind boggling.

In New York, at the United Nations, where our former Prime Minister Helen Clark earns enormous amounts of tax free dollars making herself feel like she is bringing about change, a lot of champagne will be drunk over this treaty.

I don’t understand what motivates crusaders at Amnesty International and Oxfam. They have accomplished nothing, in some cases made things worse by convincing people that the screwed up global arms trade is getting solved.

Think about what is happening in Turkey right now: do you really think that countries who have strategic interests in Turkey (Russia, United States, European Union, Great Britain and Iran) would not get involved if there was a civil war there?

The civil war in Syria is already spilling into Lebanon and all that will come of it is a sectarian bloodbath following any collapse of Assad’s regime. Do you think that fun would be allowed under an Islamist government? Maybe we have our fetishisation of democracy completely wrong. Maybe the dictator we know is better than the mob we do not.

Actions have consequences. Diplomatic interference has consequences. The arms trade treaty is not going to change anything and in fact is likely to lead to a proliferation of arms trafficking as now arms trafficking monitors have less reason to be able to argue for funding increases because they got their Treaty Of A Lifetime passed.

Unintended Consequences Of Quantitative Easing

I think it is amazing how so few commentators have linked QE to the unrest in the Middle East. Most of these countries are food importers and high oil prices don’t do much for countries other than Saudi Arabia who can shower cash on their unemployed young men to quell discontent.

The substantial increases in imported food in North Africa and the Middle East are far more important than some nonsense about democracy. If you’ve read the Pew Reports on what Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians actually want from a government you’ll find it’s not democracy.

With the Federal Reserve announcing QE^infinity recently, and aiming for nebulous targets like a 6.5% unemployment rate as reason to change policy directions, what will the unintended consequences of quantitative easing be this time?

We have no idea. And that’s the problem with globalisation. We have no idea how the world being so connected will play out over the coming decades.

Putting all of the benefits of globalisation aside, the world has become so inter-linked that we have no idea what event in what country could trigger other bad events in other countries.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, the “unknown unknown’s” are really scary. Just think about what quantitative easing has done so far – reinforce wealth inequality and those who hold financial assets.

What would happen to New Zealand if the proceeds of quantitative easing wash up on our shores in the form of bankrolling another housing bubble? Oh wait.