Thursday, February 23, 2012

Baboons On The Loose



That from Jack of Kent yesterday, mounting his high horse alongside a string of hacks and activists to decry the villainy of someone, somewhere, about the current bloodbath in Syria.  John Rentoul wants to investigate the possibility of a no-fly zone; bomb-happy French interventionist Bernard Kouchner wants to arm the Syrian opposition.  Green councillor Rupert Reid sternly admonishes that our enemy's enemy is not necessarily our friend and attacks a website for making dodgy alliances.

A stench of unreality and grandstanding hangs over this entire scenario.  We appear to have now reached the stage where many of these internet moralists are issuing denunciations to no-marks for opposing a military intervention that no serious political figure is even suggesting.

The reason why there are no Nato jets bombing Damascus is that there is, at present, no appetite for Nato jets bombing Damascus.  The Sino-Russian veto stands in here as a convenient excuse so that the American ambassador can issue a stern finger-wagging while noticeably doing nothing - had the Chinese and Russians acquiesced, the UN would've been resolved to agree that Syrian regime are a bunch of horrible criminals... and that's it.  Well, of course they are.  You'll notice that they're also a bunch of horrible criminals whom our government doesn't presently propose to remove by force.

Let's imagine that the United States suddenly decided to intercede.  The Chinese would definitely veto it, not least because of the way Nato exploited its Libya mandate to "protect civilians" into a generalised blank cheque to bomb whatever it liked, for as long as it liked.  Even if we could get round Sino-Russian objections, there is no worldwide consensus on this issue - you can bet right now that Brazil and India would strongly oppose it, while many other major countries would be extremely reluctant.  Imagine trying to sell yet another Middle Eastern adventure to South America, or South Africa, while the Americans are playing Who Blinks First with Iran and sending oil prices rocketing?

And even if we could get consent for, say, a no-fly zone as Rentoul suggests, well... You can't shoot down flying artillery batteries that don't exist, even with UN approval.

So even if there was an appetite for intervention, which there isn't, and even if we could get round the Chinese/Russian veto, which we can't, and even if we could convince a clear majority of countries to support military action, which we won't...  Syria is still an Iraq-sized country with a massive population, engaged in a really nasty civil war in which both sides have mass support.  That is, half the country would actively hate our guts if we stuck our noses in and would go out of their way to fight us off.

And arming the Syrian opposition?  Look Bernard, Syria is not Libya.  The Syrian regime has almost five thousand tanks, thousands of BMPs, armoured cars and artillery pieces and a 600,000-strong army.  Even if it could only call on a half - a third! - of that total, what are we going to arm the opposition with?  Nukes?  Would we be arming them so they can successfully defend themselves - which they clearly can't - or to make ourselves feel better about our own impotence?

This is before we get to Councillor Reid's admonition not to ally with dodgy characters out of convenience.  Point taken Rupe, but Jesus - this decade, the Good Guys have found themselves in loose alliance with Afghan warlords, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni militia, Libyan torturers and psycho Iranian terrorist groups amongst many, many other despicable characters.  That being the case, who gives a shit whether a who-are-they-then website like Medialens says nice things about Vladimir Putin? I realise that there are people who fervently believe that some lefty professors being overly fond of Stalin was an issue of world-historical significance but really, history itself disagrees.

It's as clear as ever that when it comes to Godawful civil wars and murderous military campaigns, half the people commenting on them don't have the first idea about what wars and warmaking actually entail.  I'm all for getting into pissy Twitter arguments with people over foreign policy, but I object to being lectured on my fictional iniquity by fantasists over the awesome humanitarian military wheezes which exist only in their own damn brains.

Good God.  This kind of thing really makes me worry about the possibility that Walter Mitty characters of this genus might have the ear of the Prime Minister.  It's like if someone let a load of baboons loose in the nuclear launch control room - even the best-case scenario would have you chewing your fingernails up to your elbows in terror.

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