Archive for the Middle East Category

An important distinction

Posted in Human Rights Abuses, Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on September 26, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

In this short piece, Betcy Jose makes a very important distinction between condemning the use of chemical weapons and the intentional targeting of civilians.  I think it is a very important distinction to make.

Cautiously Optimistic

Posted in Middle East with tags , , on September 21, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

I will admit I am a pretty pessimistic guy.  In fact, I am often so pessimistic that when I have those rare optimistic moments, they are immediately followed by skepticism.  And that’s where I find myself now.  I am watching the developments in Syria and it seems like progress is being made.  There are hopeful signs and it seems like real change is possible.  Of course, with situations like this, things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.  So all of my optimism is very cautious.

And the same could be said about Iran today.  It seems like Iran is ready to negotiate with the US about its nuclear program.  In fact, there are a number of reasons to be hopeful about this.  According to Foreign Policy, about 20 reasons, with one important caveat.  And so again, I find myself thinking that this looks really good, not only for Iran and the US, but for the world.

I am certainly not holding my breath and thinking that everything will turn out rosy and smelling fresh, but I think sometimes, some optimism is warranted.  And, for now, I have cautious optimism about Syria and Iran.

Unfortunately, I am not at all optimistic about Iraq.  They are pretty fucked.

The beginning of the end?

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , on September 16, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

So it looks like there may be a deal to let Syria give up in chemical weapons in order to avoid an  attack by the US.  Just a week or two ago it seemed like there were no good options left open to President Obama and then Secretary of State John Kerry makes an off-the-cuff remark that changes everything.  Usually gaffes don’t make much difference.  And when they do, it seems more like media hype than real issue.  But after Kerry made the remark about Assad giving up all his chemical weapons, the Russians jumped on the idea.  And it is a really good idea.  Of course, the devil is in the details.  And there are lots of questions that have yet to be answered.  There are also lots of problems that could still arise, so while this is certainly a welcome development, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Some questions that need to be answered:

How many chemicals weapons does Syria have?  How is the UN going to secure them all in the middle of a civil war?  Are both sides going to be willing to abide by a ceasefire in order for the UN to do their job?  Even if all the chemical weapons are found and taken under UN control, what happens to the Assad regime?  To the rebels?  To the war?

Also, here is the UN report on the use of chemical weapons on 21 Aug 2013.

OK, so there’s that…

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace, WTF? with tags , , , , on September 7, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

I can’t remember the first time I heard that we (the US government) knew about Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War that last from 1980-88.  But Foreign Policy has the CIA documents.  So I guess there is no question that this is true.  Which leads me to a somewhat obvious conclusion in another area of the Middle East.

We cannot go after Assad and his use of chemical weapons if we are going to blatantly disregard its use by other countries.  Believe it or not, we supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War and so we just ignored his use of chemical weapons.  Which makes the invasion of Iraq in 2003 all the more hypocritical.  We really shouldn’t go down that road again.

Assad must be held to account for not only the civil war that he felt was necessary but his use of chemical weapons.  But it shouldn’t be the US that holds him to account for it.  He needs to be brought before the International Criminal Court or something similar.  I certainly don’t think that he should be allowed to get away with what he has done.  But, at the same time, the US is really in no position to punish him.

We really need to show some kind of consistency before we have any room to tell others what they can and cannot do.  The hypocrisy of the US government is really astounding.

The worst…

Posted in Human Rights Abuses, Middle East, War and Peace, WTF? with tags , on August 29, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

You probably shouldn’t watch this.  You will wish you hadn’t if you do.

Anti-intervention from the Daily Kos

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on August 29, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

Here’s another take from the Daily Kos.  To me, this is the best argument against intervention that I’ve seen so far.

Foreign Affairs tweet (@ForeignAffairs)

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , on August 29, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

If its actual goal was to protect civilians, the West would have intervened in Syria long ago.

Having it both ways?

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on August 29, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

The more I think about the situation in Syria the less comfortable I feel with my conclusion that we should bomb them.  Honestly, I was never comfortable with that stance, but sometimes you just have to say what you think.  And I think it is very frustrating to see someone like Assad kill thousands of people with impunity.  I am talking about the wider war and not just the chemical attack.  But at the same time, I know that the US should not act as the world’s police.

I have never been a fan of humanitarian intervention.  It seems crazy to think that if we start bombing someone it will end up helping them instead of making the situation worse.  And yet, when I look at the world today (and over the years) it seems like there have been so many incidents when two groups were killing each other and it is just tragic that someone didn’t step in to do something.

What I am not doing is suggesting that we act simply because Barack Obama (more specifically, a Democrat) is in the White House as some might suggest.  At the same time, there are some out there that are making a fairly good case for doing nothing in Syria.

I really don’t like the idea of doing nothing in Syria.  But, at the same time, I have been opposed to intervention up until now.  To me, the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.  If I had more confidence in the International Criminal Court or something similar, then I would likely be more willing to let Assad continue until he could be prosecuted, but I just don’t see that as being a viable option.  Especially when it is likely that thousands more will die before he ever sees a court room or a jail cell (if he ever does).

There may be no good options in Syria (as Matt Yglesias points out above) but doing nothing to help the Syrian people (especially the civilians) seems like a particularly troubling one.

Attack Syria? Unfortunately, Yes.

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags on August 28, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

The Syrian civil war just went from bad to absolutely horrible. It is not enough that at least 100,000 people have been killed since the fighting began in March of 2011. It is not enough that roughly 2 million people are refugees or are internally displaced and half of them are children. Now we can add hundreds (if not thousands) of people being killed with some type of chemical weapon, more than likely by the Syrian government.

This is the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in today. Some might argue that while this situation is certainly horrible, that doesn’t make it one that the US needs to deal with. And being the good liberal that I am, I can certainly understand that position. While no one will accuse me of being a pacifist, I did oppose both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars even before they began. So I think that we need to think long and hard before we act militarily anywhere. Even when we risk very few American lives, I think it is important to weigh the consequences very carefully before we act with any kind of force.

So why am I now saying that we need to attack (yes, I said attack, because we can use any euphemism we like, but that is what we’re talking about here) Syria? To put it simply, there are certain actions that must not be allowed to stand, no matter who does them or where they happen. And the use of chemical weapons is one of those things. Others would be crimes against humanity such as genocide.

No country should have chemical, biological, or nuclear (CBN) weapons. In an ideal world, none of these would even exist. Of course, we don’t live in that fantasy world. So in the real world, those things exist and they exist in abundance. And try as we might to stop their proliferation (and we should certainly do that) we won’t be able to stop every country that wants to pursue those things. But what is much worse than simply possessing these types of weapons is the use of them. That is a line that must never be crossed. And if it is ever crossed, the punishments should be severe. Not only because the perpetrators need to be punished but because we need to send a very clear message to any and all other countries that actions like this are unacceptable.

It is widely accepted that killing people is wrong. It’s clear that it should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary. And war is not a pleasant thing for anyone especially because those affected are likely not even doing the fighting. When it comes to CBN weapons, this is even truer. The risk of killing non-combatants increases exponentially when using CBN weapons. Guns and bombs can be unpredictable. But they are infinitely more predictable than CBN weapons.

The use of CBN weapons must never be allowed and much more than strongly worded condemnations must be the punishment when they are. So if the Syrian regime under Bashar Assad has used chemicals weapons in their ongoing civil war, we need to destroy not only those weapons but it seems necessary to kill him or capture and try him for crimes against humanity.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Syria will be a stable, peaceful place for some time to come, no matter what happens to Assad or his regime. But to let him continue with impunity would be much worse for Syria and the rest of the world.

War on Libya

Posted in Africa, Middle East with tags , on March 21, 2011 by Black Pumpkin

The US has now attacked a third Middle Eastern country.  I am against all the wars in the Middle East.  I understand about wanting to get rid of Moammer Khaddafi, but I don’t think joining a civil war was the right thing to do.  The only thing that does hold a little sway in my mind is that some of the “rebels” fighting against Khaddafi’s forces did call for intervention to help them.

It is a cold comfort that this operation is being handled by more than just the US.  Both Britain and France have used their militaries to strike Libya.  But the operation is presumably authorized under UN Resolution 1973 (2011).

I have this fear that more civilians will die because we attacked than would have died otherwise.  Hopefully I’m wrong.  Fortunately, we won’t have any boots on the ground.  Or that is what keeps being said.  We’ll see how true it remains.