I Wrote About Something Pertinent To The Situation In Syria Last Year

Last year I wrote about a French article that was talking about how foreign intervention goes wrong.

The article was called “Les trois fautes de l’occident” (The 3 Errors Of The West) and was written by a former French ambassador to Senegal.

Incarner le mal – personalising the bad

Bashar al-Assad is the bad in Syria. He used chemical weapons. He was not elected by popular vote.

Idéaliser les « rebelles » – idolising the “rebels”

Rebelling against a dictatorship makes you pure and good in the eyes of the Western Media. You might be an al-Queda franchise and Gulf State backed militia but you’re rebelling and that’s cool man.

Croire qu’au nom du bien tout est permis – believing that in the name of doing good, anything is permissible

Tomahawk Cruise Missile Alert! Without double checking to see that Libya is now a complete failed state that has seen oil production plummet to almost nothing as violence rises and Libya becomes the narco-transhipment hub of choice into Europe, Syria is about to get its own violation of international law.

My conclusion in November last year:

Reports that the United States has been funnelling arms to Syrian rebels are not good at all. Already the violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon with the assassination of a senior intelligence official and street level violence. The risk of further tension between Turkey and Syria is an aggravating factor. The influence that Iran has over Hezbollah and Shi’ite factions in Syria do not bode well for a prompt resolution to the Syrian civil war.

Referring back to Jean Christophe-Rufin he concludes that if we are going to intervene in other countries, we need a far more responsible doctrine that realises building a peaceful society “post dictatorships” takes a lot of work.

Now that we know that Saudi Arabia tried to buy off the Russian Federation in exchange for Assad’s collapse, we can more clearly identify the cui bono (who benefits?) from the collapse of the Syrian regime.

This situation is even more complicated because Barack Obama has just been completely tooled by General al-Sisi and the Egyptian Military – his preferred Muslim Brotherhood man Morsi was rolled and Mubarak released from prison.

This also shows how incompetent National Security Advisor Susan Rice has been and why the Benghazi scandal actually mattered at the time despite all of the spin and obfuscation. The Arab Spring was a projection of Western ideals onto an area of the world still sorting itself out from British and French arbitrary borders after the end of World War One.

I am extremely concerned at how some genocides are more equal than others. Does anyone in the New Zealand media know how important Syria’s gas transhipment infrastructure is? Bueller? Bueller?

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.

Les trois fautes de l’Occident

The former French ambassador to Senegal wrote about the 3 mistakes the West has made with respect to dealing with dictators and regimes that abuse human rights. Hat tip to King’s College London strategic studies blog Kings of War for pointing me to the article in September’s Paris Match.

Jean-Christophe Rufin, who has been involved in a lot of non-profits and was one of the founders of Médecins Sans Frontières points to three key mistakes. My explanations of the points he makes are my own translation from the French. I’ve added a decent amount of my own commentary so if you want you can go to Google Translate and read the original article.

Incarner le mal – personalising the bad

When a dictatorship is on the trajectory towards collapse we put a face to the terror – Saddam, Khaddafi, Assad. We fail to recognise the utter chaos that can occur in the transition. We actually put humn rights more at risk. He argues that it’s harder to get people to care when the terror is from a group – Salafists in Mali for example.

Last week on Radio New Zealand Kim Vinnell presented a tragic story of the rise of Islamism and struggle in Mali post the collapse of the Khaddafi regime. How many people in New Zealand will care about the plight of Mali’s people who don’t agree with having your hand chopped off for stealing?

Idéaliser les « rebelles » – idolising the “rebels”

Without thinking clearly, rebel groups are automatically imputed with some level of moral superiority. Western journalists jump to conclusions, like thinking that the Arab Spring was about democracy. As the voters have shown in Tunisia and Egypt, conservative Islam is democratically preferred by the people in those countries.

The Libyan rebels first act of government was to legalise polygamy. They’ve subsequently spent more time implementing Sharia law than getting rebuilding underway. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood very narrowly maintained the tenuous peace Mubarak had maintained with Israel.

Croire qu’au nom du bien tout est permis – believing that in the name of doing good, anything is permissible

NATO quickly went “all out” in disposing of Khaddafi. But the power vacuum in Libya is filled by different rebel groups that include the local franchise of Al-Queda. The US Consulate attack in Benghazi and death of the US Ambassador to Libya should make it patently clear that Libya has not suddenly become a paradise. The fallout from the collapse of the Khaddafi regime includes an influx of extremists into Mali and other countries in North Africa, flush with arms and hard currency.

The arrogance with which the West attempts to interfere in other countries leads to a lot of unintended consequences. Exporting “democracy” is a cruel and sick joke. Just look at public opinion surveys in the Middle East – they are overwhelmingly in favour of Sharia law, isolationism, persecution of Christians and of course the elimination of Israel.

Reports that the United States has been funnelling arms to Syrian rebels are not good at all. Already the violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon with the assassination of a senior intelligence official and street level violence. The risk of further tension between Turkey and Syria is an aggravating factor. The influence that Iran has over Hezbollah and Shi’ite factions in Syria do not bode well for a prompt resolution to the Syrian civil war.

Referring back to Jean Christophe-Rufin he concludes that if we are going to intervene in other countries, we need a far more responsible doctrine that realises building a peaceful society “post dictatorships” takes a lot of work.

“First, do no harm”.