Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Motherfuckers etc.

Now, I do like this - all this death and destruction is your fault because your government, wholly independently of your opinion on the matter, refuses to drop high explosives on Damascus. 

There's something bracingly bullshitty about entirely accepting that "there is no appetite for putting military pressure on Assad" in the UK or the US, and then laying the blame for this on "kneejerk peaceniks" who have, as has been repeatedly and graphically demonstrated, no influence whatsoever on foreign policy.

I suspect that some folk just really enjoy putting grand, self-contradicting statements like this out there and the overall effect is like James standing in his back garden holding armfuls of dead pigeons - he hurls them into the air, crying "Fly, my pretties!", to the sound of feathery thumps.

This meme about how, like, "Syria is the anti-interventionists' Iraq" is all well and good but you know, what's so special about Syria?  Wars have been cutting a bloody swathe through e.g. Democratic Republic of Congo for decades, but you seldom hear anyone blaming the damn hippies for the millions-strong bodycount there.  People almost never run up to you waving pictures of dead South Sudanese under your nose screeching "You did this, you monster!" or anything similarly daft.

And why is it kneejerk peaceniks' fault, specifically?  There are damn few of us, and we're vastly outnumbered by people who basically couldn't give a shit one way or the other.  I'm against the UK hurling our military around other countries for no sane reason, but I fail to see why anyone who shares my opinions should have to answer twenty questions about our collective culpability, while millions of our compatriots change over from Channel Four News and curl up on the sofa in front of Coronation Street.

Anyway, this all amounts to one basic fact, and it's this - the UK's war fans are really, really pissed off  that a lot of people see them as belligerent lunatics, partly responsible for a gigantic pile of dead Iraqis, and so they want to spread some blame around a bit.   Thus, all those dead people in Syria must somehow be our fault.

I can understand that urge but it's a criminal's mindset.  It's like, okay, I may have murdered some grannies, but you saw some news stories about grannies being murdered on television and didn't immediately don a Batsuit and stab a lot of Allawites to death, so you are technically just as much of a granny-murderer as I am, innit. QED.

Kudos though for James burbling about "the lessons of Iraq" in a column that advocates bombing hell out of Syria in the name of peace, but articulates no actual practical means or achievable outcomes.  Remember, the principal lesson of Iraq was "Thou shalt not invade a country for no sane reason without any idea of what thou wantest to achieve".

Being from Edinburgh, I well remember Mercedes, the old mental polar bear at the zoo that used to just swim around in circles or sit there banging her head on the bars of her cage.  Here, we see a graphic illustration of similar human behaviours, but with "getting paid to be belligerent" replacing "being large, white, ursine and institutionalised".

Do I have to say it again? Well, looks like I do - Some motherfuckers are always tryin' to ice-skate uphill.


ejh said...

Another way to look at it is that from the liberal interventionist's point of view, the best liberal interventions are those that never happen. Because they always go so well! And they can always be cited as a success when set against the inevitably distressing reality.

Phil said...

He comes very close to actually saying this - I just checked to see what he says about "the lesson of Iraq", and what he says is that it should be counter-balanced with the lessons of Bosnia and Rwanda. Which, if it means anything, must mean that he's certain that more "intervening" in those conflicts would have meant fewer deaths. It's hard to imagine how an intervention could have made those situations worse, but the current state of Iraq would have been hard to imagine ten years ago. Which is surely one of the main lessons of Iraq: the law of unintended consequences plus huge amounts of military equipment is a bad combination - particularly when you weren't too clear what your intended consequences were in the first place.

Asteri said...

There is a slightly better thought through – but I grant unlikely alternative to going in all bombs exploding.
1) A negotiated settlement on ending the violence rather than getting rid of the government first.
2) Getting our oil monarchy allies from backing off and ceasing to funnel arms, money and jihadists into the country.
3) Recognising that a force with any NATO members or Iran or Russia will be rather inflammatory and instead negotiate a deployment of troops from neutral countries that don’t have ‘a dog in this fight,’ who can be deployed throughout the country to disarm militants and protect the minorities from being exterminated by the forces supplied by Saudi Arabia.
4) Put pressure on the government to accept a unity coalition with moderates from the opposition.
5) Accept there will be long process of stabilising the country, rebuilding and allowing for the return of refugees. One some normality has been restored, then a negotiated political settlement with the government of some kind of transition to elections.

It could work? its at least better than blaming STW or John Major in the 1990s.

flyingrodent said...

Another way to look at it is that from the liberal interventionist's point of view, the best liberal interventions are those that never happen.

Well, there's certainly a lot of people who are very sure that if the UK had bunged some rockets at Syria last year, everything would now be much better there. I'm not really sure that there are many good reasons to believe that this is true.

It's hard to imagine how an intervention could have made those situations worse...

Dan Davies usually notes at this point that the UN actually did intervene in Rwanda...

...And that it didn't make things much better, much as most wheezes of this type don't.

ejh said...

It could work?

That depends on what "work" means. If "work" means "providing one with a stick to beat the Left", which is a very very important part of almost any proposed intevention, then I can't see how it works at all.

(Which is cynical, but as long as pro-interventionist polemics are going to concentrate on defaming anti-inteventionists rather than on the likely benefits of their proposed course of action, what else can you expect?)

Asteri said...

Thats true. And this is Bloodbath we a talking about. The man who compared Russell Brand to Mussolini!

organic cheeseboard said...

For all Prof Norm's guff about how terribly hard interventionists suffer in their decisions, liberal interventionism is literally the easiest creed in the world to follow, because it relies purely on idealism, and every single instance of 'facts on the ground' contradicting the ideals are evidence not that the creed is faulty but that someone else fucked things up, but that the ideals were not to blame, so no lessons need be learned. It's not-entirely-uncoincidentally the same sort of thing you'll hear from, say, Communists.

It's interesting that Bloodworth claims to have opposed the Iraq war (when he was about 14, I think, unless I've got his age wrong), making him the perfect interventionist just like Alan NTM - he can make the exact same arguments as pro-Iraq people do, but pretend that somehow it's not connected to anything else, and that even though his own logic means that his opposition to the Iraq war was invalid, everyone else is somehow to blame. This article's a textbook example of that, as Phil says.

Equally, tohugh, as myriad commenters point out, he doesn't actually make it clear how the strikes on Assad which he was so keen on at the time would actually have improved things. In fact Bloodworth wanted a proper full on war against Assad as was clear at the time of the debates on it, which would fairly obviously have had just as catastrophic an end as Iraq did - and I think he knows it, hence all this point-avoiding.

Anonymous said...

In reality, the West has been intervening in Syria for almost 3 years, because the West failed to stop Saudi Arabia and Qatar funding extremist rebels while meanwhile shouting "Assad must go". This has destabilised both Syria and western Iraq. Reading Patrick Cockburn's latest series of articles in the Independent gives a clear idea of the dynamics, and an interview in one of them with a jihadi suggests that the CIA and MI6 have been at meetings with jihadi groups along with Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Those who wanted us to bomb Syria assume that it would have deterred Assad and thus ended the war. They refuse to look at all the other possible effects of bombing Syria, and turn a blind eye to all the other actors involved in Syria.

What Asteri outlines above is a real humanitarian intervention, as was originally conceived in the early 1990s. I doubt whether any such intervention will ever take place because no army is going to willingly accept to go in and place itself between two such warring armies.


organic cheeseboard said...

This seems to be an incresingly prevalent line to take. Witness this, enthusiastically promoted by Bloodworth and his chums:

Herein, a failure to support what was specifically a 'very limited' amount of bombing in Syria, which had no practical use, has Jones bearing responsibility for the following:

more than 140,000 dead SO FAR, no sign of an end to the violence, all the sectarian division and violence of Iraq but no possibility of removing the tyrant, no possibility of peace, the certainty of genocidal reprisals when Assad regains control, no prospect of the introduction of democracy or the rule of law.

Brilliant, isn't it? Like I said, interventionism is literally the easiest thing in the world to believe in - anything even half-critical of an intervention sees you responsible for everything involved in the conflict as things stand, whereas voicing support means you're completely free of responsibility for anything bad.

Equally funny is Risdon's decision that, because Gadaffi Was Bad A Long Time Ago (no mention of course is given to everyone chumming up with him more recently), that somehow Jones is wrong to point out that the intervention in Libya has had catastrophic consequences and that interventionists are ignoring them.

Guano - bear in mind too that the standard interventionist plan for Syria was exactly that used in Libya - i.e. bomb fuck out of the dictator in question despite it obviously being against international law, ensure his death, then just, um, well, the dictator will be gone so there's be a 'possibility of peace', cough, cough, mumble. That's literally Risdon's line on it.

flyingrodent said...

You've beaten me to the punch there OC, I was going to say something similar.

It does pretty much show how deeply "the lessons of Iraq" have been learned, I think - let's not reiterate the whole Libya situation, but note that while current goings on there aren't entirely e.g. David Cameron's fault, they wouldn't have been possible at all without him and his mate Nicolas. It was pretty clear years ago that every ill-consequence of our trigger-happy ways is forever excusable because e.g. Al-Qaeda ate our homework.

And while we could no doubt pin all manner of criticisms on Owen Jones, it really is very silly to try to pin the blame for a raging civil war on a bloke whose job is "saying some things on news programmes".

But none of this is new, and it goes back decades.

And Guano - your point there does bear repeating, because little of the coverage of the Syrian war I've seen acknowledges that the UK & US actually have been sticking their hooters into it. I've said before and will again: it's very clear that e.g. David Cameron greatly prefers the current situation to, for example, the rebels capitulating quickly and the war ending. Both he and Barry O seem quite content to keep the fight going, right down to the last Syrian.

Smut Clyde said...

At the time Britain pursued a policy that would have been music to any anti-war activist’s ears: we sat, arms self-righteously folded, while 8,000 Bosnian Muslims from the town of Srebrenica were rounded up and killed by the Bosnian Serb army under the command of Ratko Mladic

Oh for fucksache. That is some tendentious gobshitery right there. The UK did not "sit arms self-righteously folded" during the Serbian / Croatian partition of Bosnia; Hurd insisted on imposing an arms embargo specifically designed to stop the Bosniaks from defending themselves. His argument was that Bosnian loyalists should surrender, and the sooner the better, and anything that reduced the pressure on them would only delay the inevitable. Hurd did indeed warn "against the creation of a ‘level killing field’", but as the reason for intervening. The Major government actively sided with the Serbs.

This is all the public record, FFS. How young is this vile little twunt?

Anonymous said...

Flying Rodent's main point is that we, the public, have very little influence on these decisions. Indeed! A million people marched against the invasion of Iraq, but the majority of MPs decided to accept Blair's evidence-free assertion that he knew Iraq had WMDs and voted for the war. There have been no demonstrations against "intervention" in Syria yet somehow MPs picked up the vibes of people choking on their cornflakes while listening to Radio 4 and decided to vote for neither of the two Commons' motions (and then Cameron decided to rule out any intervention).

So why did MPs ask more questions this time? Did all the questions that we have been asking over the last 10 years about Iraq make MPs think more clearly about Syria? Maybe. But a couple of other points are worth making.

1 The UK armed services were gun-ho about the invasion of Iraq, it gave them a chance to show off and use their kit and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Yanks. They are much less keen on any kind of "intervention" in Syria because of what happened in Iraq and because Syria would be very messy.

2 There are probably divisions in the Tories about Saudi Arabia. There are those who take the Saudis money and there are those who are worried about how much influence the Saudis have and what they get up to.

It is probably these two factors that influenced some Tories to not vote for Cameron's motion. Meanwhile the rest of us sit at home shouting at the radio and taking the blame for everything.


organic cheeseboard said...

On the Tory anti-war side - I'd say it's largely a matter of feeling very betrayed by Blair (who after all relied on Tory support to carry the Iraq vote) and I do genuinely think that they were probably trying to reflect the views of their constituency voters - who probably do have their isolationist tendencies, but who will also doubtless feel betrayed by Iraq. I mentioned it soemwhere else, possibly on BenSix's site, but there's also the recent sanctification of the armed forces, with soldiers all over the media and at sports fixtures etc - the prominence of soldiers in the British media and public life was, I'm sure, meant to reinforce the idea that, like America, we're anation defined by its military, but the flipside is that people are a lot less willing to send these lads and lasses off to fight in civil wars in the middle east for no real reason. With Miliband and Labout there was probably a lot of that too, but on top it looks like he got cold feet during the discussions about it when it was made clear that there was no actual plan in place (and I'm guessing he didn't think much about Libya, but that's surely worth mentioning). Cameron's speech setting the case in the Commons was a disaster as a result.

Re: the millions marching, it's worth repeating soemthing we've discussed a few times on here and I think on Bensix's blog - the majority of Brits at the time were in favour of war on Iraq, and that surely had something to do with the outright lies in the press about Saddam, WMDs, 50 mins, etc.

There were no massive anti-Syrian intervention marches partly because there didn't really need to be - it was and is the majority view that we should stay out, and that's surely the core lesson of Iraq - that was an utter clusterfuck (as is Afghanistan, incidentally - a casualty-heavy mess with no seeming solution in sight) and that as a result people are in general much more likely to mistrust the case for war that the UK govt puts out following the obvious lies Blair and his mates told. Aaro's Bloody Prediction is worth repeating here - he claiemd he'd never believe Balir again if there were no WMDs in Iraq, and while that was obviously bogus, a lot of people surely did in fact take that line for real.

Dressing Iraq up as a 'humanitarian intervention' is itself disingenuous - that wasn't the case put to parliament, but the excuse made by Blair and his useful idiots in the press once the lies told about the reasons for invading were too obvious to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the people who have got cold feet about military adventures are the "centre ground voters" and some Tory voters and that has probably happened because of what they know about Iraq (and Afghanistan and Libya etc). They now distrust what politicians say on this subject. I heard some UKIP supporters asking Malcolm Rifkind some very sharp questions about Syria: they knew exactly what aspects of the subject he was trying to body-swerve around.

Now maybe this is due to people like you and I going on and on about Iraq for 10 years and forcing Brown to call an Inquiry, but I doubt it. You can read what happened in Iraq in any newspaper, even though most politicians fail to admit it.


Anonymous said...

Can I recommend this film?

As the main character says in the last paragraph of the review, the West cannot calm a civil war by taking sides and that is what it has done in Syria.

Although the review doesn't mention it, I understand that Ollivier was involved in the negotiations that led to the withdrawal of South African and Cuban troops from Angola and the independence of Namibia. All very hopeful, and this probably paved the way to the release of Mandela. The problem is that the Americans screwed up over Angola, because they were supposedly bringing peace and democracy to Angola while at the same time they were supporting UNITA. It all went wrong in 1992.