Saturday, August 16, 2014

Your Dick In Your Hand

Being reflexively anti-war in the UK is hard work - everyone agrees with you all the time, right up until everyone doesn't, and then you're left standing there with nothing but your dick in your hand while everyone else chases off after Gadaffis and Saddams with high-explosives.

It happens again and again and no matter how many times folk slink back later saying, well, we made a few justifiable strategic errors, you just know that you're going to have to issue the same Don't kill people warnings, one meagre year down the line.  It's generally a lonely life.

It doesn't matter, how many times your Yazidis get off the mountain without significant UK aid or an entirely theoretical artillery seige of Bengazhi with rapacious house-to-house murders turns into an actual, person-killing, NATO-supported, civilians-running-everywhere seige of Sirte.  There's always some compelling reason why this war, this intervention, this bombardment, is radically different to all the other invasions and occupations and airstrike campaigns, and why the horrible news always means that there's no time for rational thought this time before we start blowing that shit up.

Seriously, can anyone name a single UK military operation of the last thirty years that wasn't so urgent, so pressing, so desperate, that there was any time at all available for reasonable consideration or reflection?  I can't, and I have to say that I'm getting a bit suspicious about the constancy of the refrain.

I'm not even a pacifist myself - I'm quite in favour of serious violence, within certain constrained circumstances.  Nonetheless, if you're anti-war, that should mean something - it should relate to an actual principle about warfare that you have to consider and either stick to or throw aside out of absolute necessity, rather than easily turning a 180 on the spot and deciding that this war is actually awesome.

And yet, and yet.  Every single bombing campaign, it's the same.  We have no choice.


gregorach said...

Yup, I know exactly what you mean. I'm so very, very tired of it. But hey, we're arming the Kurds now. I'm sure that will turn out splendidly.

organic cheeseboard said...

Phenomenal ewxample of this today from our chum James Bloodworth:

Highlights include:

. reporting something really dubious that a Kurdish friend said to him as if its source means its truthfulness is inherent ('today ISIS are attacking Iraq, tomorrow they'll be in London' - well they were in Syria last year, and still aren't in London, so...? Bloodworth then has to translate this into a claim that somehow everything in the world is our responsibility despite our ownership of credit cards - um...).

. Claiming, with no evidence, that the existence of ISIS is 'not our fault' even tohugh their roots in the mess we made in Iraq are abundantly clear, as is their funding stream via Saudi, our allies

. another iteration of the unfounded claim he makes in everything he writes that somehow bombing Assad would have put a stop to ISIS

My favourite quotation though is this one:

When you live in a country that is failing to prevent at least some members of its own society from travelling to destroy somebody else’s, all talk of "keeping out" is little more than sanctimonious rubbish.

Clearly here he's not talking about British people who travel over to serve in the IDF, right...? But equally, the logic still doesn't make sense. A few kids get radicalised and suddenly it means we have to bomb the fuck out of Iraq again? Does this mean that if nobody in Britain got radicalised, we could stay out?

flyingrodent said...

If anything, the lad's getting less reasonable and cautious, isn't he? That's three columns in a row filled with the sound of screeching tyres and smashing metal.

A few kids get radicalised and suddenly it means we have to bomb the fuck out of Iraq again? Does this mean that if nobody in Britain got radicalised, we could stay out?

For a contention that's allegedly so obvious, it sure looks like an elaborately retarded logic to me. If you wanted to lay some blame at the UK/US door for ISIS, you could mention the twenty-five year on-off military onslaught that's been repeatedly rejigged and repurposed for presentation as an equally urgent moral imperative each time, for a start.

We could also raise the occupation and political hijinks that left large swathes of Iraq so utterly vulnerable to being overrun by a only a couple of thousand battle-hardened jihadists and a few thousand more cannon-fodder volunteers. And we might mention that half this mob have probably been on the US payroll as part of the surge in the latter 2000s; that they almost certainly include elements of our erstwhile allies the former Syrian FSA, and that their firepower was largely looted from stocks supplied by the US. And also that the Iraqi army seems to have little intention of fighting back against these loonies, not least because they're hoping that the US/UK will do all the killing on their behalf.

And we could also note that "This is our fault, so we are obligated to help" was precisely the argument that e.g. Chris Hitchens used to support the 2003 invasion, back when he was
commanding us to cheer on the Iran/Contra crowd as saviours.

All of which should make us somewhat skeptical just about this single claim, that Jimbo thinks is so very clear that it's the crux of the piece.

It doesn't help that the rest of the article is made up of ludicrous assertions either, but that's never stopped anyone before.

organic cheeseboard said...

On Twitter he's enthusiastically agreeing with people who claim (with no evidence, and I've been looking for it independently of them) that James Foley was handed over to ISIS by Assad.

Now Assad is a clever bloke, and this might well be the case as part of his wider strategy to muddy the waters of the civil war and weaken his main opposition. Indeed there are a LOT of coincidentally-timed pieces in the press today about Assad taking ISIS on directly - mirroring what the US, Kurds and Iraqis are doing - making him look like the good guy.

But if Bloodworth does indeed believe that ISIS and Assad have been collaborating, and if he claims on his Twitter feed that 'not enough people have seen this', then surely it'd have made sense for Bloodworth Himself Personally to have said something about it?

But he hasn't - he's never once made the 'Assad and ISIS are chums' claim which is really the one necessary to justify his oft-made claim that bombing Assad last year would have stopped ISIS.

and the reason for this? well - not only is it disturbingly reminiscent of the Saddam = Bin Laden bullshit that was fed to the media in the run-up to Iraq, but also because it's the kind of guilt-by-implicit-association that even Bloodworth can't manage to make work in his writing (and god knows logic is not his friend at the best of times).

So we precision-bomb Assad in Sept 2013, or even bomb him more widely as JB seemed to want, and somehow this hurts ISIS because, er, he's previously strengthened them a little bit while keeping them at arm's length? ISIS will hardly stand and fight with Assad - the lgoic there still doesn't make sense. It only really makes sense if the UK/US launched a ground invasion of Syria last year - again, this might have been what JB wanted, but no govt was likely to sign up for that - and it would just have seen ISIS running off to Iraq to cause even more carnage than they are now. That's not even a counterfactual - they're doing it while still fighting Assad, and they're obviously not stupid.

organic cheeseboard said...

Just as a note, and cos I've nowhere else to put this random though, there are two Fallen Stars of Decency i've thought about a bit recently.

One is Chas Newkey-Burden. as late as last year he was running a 'Philosemitic' blog, Oy Va goy, wherein for a long time he posted rants about how great Lieberman and Netanyahu were, and had pieces reposted on HP Sauce; he even dedicated a book to Netanyahu. Then he seemed to have a change of heart and posted still-'philosemitic' ramblings but ones which opposed the Likud Party and Lieberman, at the same time having a go at Owen Jones for being 'out of touch' on the Middle East (one wonders whether being 'out of touch' is better than being 'well-informed' but switching allegiances so drastically). But look for Oy Va goy now and you get - nothing. And even though he's on twitter he doesn't mention the middle east as far as I can tell, spending most of his time showing off his new Arsenal away kit. Whatever happened?

The other is alexander Meleagou-Hitchens, son of the hitch. He was eerywhere a while back, acting as an in the know talking head on matters Islamic and Middle Eastern, mouthing off against lefties. And now? He's nowhere - not a trace of him online from what I can tell, while his chums like Shiraz Maher (who is inexplicably praised for his 'knowledge') and Douglas Murray continue to stick their oars in via every media outlet going. Whatever happened to him?

flyingrodent said...

For comedy value, see the following much-retwat article

Powerful and compelling stuff, we can all agree. I almost hope that this idea that states who do anything at all that could conceivably assist a terrorist group are actively encouraging terrorism catches on, as it could have some entertaining consequences.

On Chaz NB: I suspect he discovered that his wide-eyed enthusiasm might be misplaced when he spotted that all of his rumblings about left-wingers was being met with insane kill-the-Palestinians nuttery. God only knows what happened to Hitch Junior.

flyingrodent said...

And here speaketh Sunny...

Sunny Hundal @sunny_hundal · 4h

I said earlier if we don't take out Assad, we will have to go in anyway to counter ISIS-like groups. GUESS WHAT?


I do like this idea, that removing one of ISIS' very few strong enemies in the region would somehow have destroyed them. If that's the case, perhaps we should've been bombing the Kurds as well?

Anyway, the bit I especially like is the framing of the issue as a choice between war and war, a very popular gambit in political circles. You do have to chuckle at how our democracy treats warmaking, occasionally - we can do anything we like, so long as it's this one thing only.

Igor Belanov said...

The issue with ISIS is that they are a godsend for the warmongers. Being almost a caricature of evil and depravity, not even the SWP can offer them up as anti-imperialist heroes, and every decent-minded person has to bay for war against them. The fact that groups with every bit of the barbarity of ISIS have been endemic in parts of Africa over the past 25 years tends to be ignored.
Another thing that gets ignored is the source of ISIS's arms and funding. Is a Western leader ever going to come out and speak against Saudi Arabia, let alone adopt any kind of sanction against them?

flyingrodent said...

And in other news...

I'm going to predict with 100% certainty that the response to this will be - nothing to do with us, guvnor. We done them heathens a big favour, and look how they repay us.

organic cheeseboard said...

I've had a bit of a closer look and Hitchens Jr is still at King's, and is apparently still a doctoral student - which means his studies are taking a bit longer than they should, unless he's part-time. That might explain his relative silence, while the gobshite Shiraz Maher (who despite a totla lack of qualifications and no seeming skills in research or writing is a 'Senior Research Fellow' at KCL) is all over the news twatting on about ISIS.

Yes - Libya - I think the correct interventionist approach to that is to say 'well of course I didn't support what happened, what I wanted was a peacekeeping force left there for all time' - it's their answer to every single conflist in the world, no matter how utterly preposterous the idea ofthe West installing an army in every single middle eastern country would be.

To that end, see this latest piece of peusdo-intellectual straw man wank from Hopi Sen, which treats anyone who's ever opposed a Western intervention as part of one 'movement', which is apaprently more powerful than the movement to intervene (despite all the evidence to the contrary):

It includes the following:

you can only accept that ‘our intervention can only make things worse‘ if you do not account for the possible actions of others. The binary choice is not ‘the current situation‘ versus ‘the situation after western action‘ but ‘a range of future situations in which Western military action has been pursued‘ and ‘a future where they have not – and others have responded‘.

It strikes me that this logic means that we have to intervene everywhere, at any point, because to not do so it to be culpable not just or stuff that happened but for stuff that didn't happen as well, whereas with intervention you can 'take ownership' or some such bollocks. And also, of course, once we've intervened, interventionists don't have to 'take ownership' of the subsequent bloodbath because, after all, the intervention wasn't quite what they asked for.

And in his comments he says:

US and WU intervention can seem to be very short-termist (and increasingly so) eg it is really quite remarkable that US forces were in and out of Iraq in decade.

So he, as an Iraq war supporter, wanted to see US (and UK, I'm guessing) forces in Iraq for more than ten years, even though that weny directly against the will of the Iraqi people. Was he making this argument at the time? I can't be arsed to trawl through his rubbish blog but I really doubt it.

I do love his footnote where he pre-empts people asking how the 'responsibility to protect' applies to, say, yer ordinary Gazan. apparently we don't need to intervene there because Hamas probably wouldn't want peacekeepers around (and Israel would? But with that, since when has that kind of thinking factored into interventionist logic - 'hmm, not sure that the al-Nusra front would want us in Syria, best leave it alone'?). But it also includes this:

it is reasonable to be concerned by arms export licenses [to Israel], but a bit odd to be concerned about them while being indifferent to Hamas’s importing rockets and tunnel building materials from Iran

He's not even really bothered here. He might as well have just scrawled 'you Stoppers are a bunch of hypocrites who love Iran' in crayon for all that his logic makes sense.

DD isn't blogging much about any of this stuff any more, but re: Decent Racism - Hopi Sen on Alex Salmond in yesterday's debate: "This is like being stuck in a pub with an angry drunk." Way to go to avoid racist cliches Mr Sen. What next, a debate with an African politician 'This is a bewitching speech', etc...?

organic cheeseboard said...

Also re: Sen (and every other interventionist's) idea that since 'Syria has got worse' than it was last september. I still don't understand the logic where our 'surgical anti-chemical-weapons strikes' against Assad would somehow have magicaly weakened one of his foes in the conflict. I've seen a lot of the 'Assad is an ISIS enabler' guff as posted above, but he 'enabled' them prior to the chemical weapons business, purely via letting a few people out of prison, and is now busily taking a hiding off them. So now we get calls to bomb both Assad AND ISIS, in two countries, making this a far bigger war than anything we've done since the 1940s, far costlier in terms of British lives and money, but somehow it's going to be worth it because, um, fascism?

And once it's over, and ISIS are 'beaten' (for which read: hiding somewhere) and Assad is defeated (for which read: his minority will be actively persecuted) we'll then presumably have to retrain a sectarian army in Syria to the same quality of its Iraqi counterpart (of early 2014 at least), as well as a Kurdish army and probably the Iraqi one too. And then what happens, in (I guess, given Sen's logic) 2030, once we leave? Will the Kurds really live in peace with, say, Turkey? Which of those two armies would expect US backing, as the Iraqis obviously did? would the Syrians still be happy to keep the peace with Israel, which after all occupies part of Syria (something Israel fans keep very quiet most of the time)?

Those are hypotheticals, weak as they might be, which I came up with in the last 5 minutes. The UK and US govts will be thinking this stuff through far deeper, I'd have thought, and guess what? The negatives of a ground incursion (which is what we'd have to have, to get what Interventionists want) sure as fuck outweigh the positives from where I'm looking.

flyingrodent said...

...see this latest piece of peusdo-intellectual straw man wank from Hopi Sen, which treats anyone who's ever opposed a Western intervention as part of one 'movement', which is apaprently more powerful than the movement to intervene (despite all the evidence to the contrary)

I love it: a "dominant" anti-intervention movement in British foreign policy, no less. In Britain, a country that's been in a state of near-constant war for more than twenty years, in at least five different countries, and also as part of a loose coalition of nations that have been blowing shit up in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Serbia and Pakistan throughout; operating a vast network of secret detention/torture facilities across the globe while also backing assaults on Lebanon and Gaza and maintaining hundreds of military bases all over the planet...

Well, with that in mind, nothing says "dominant foreign policy tendency" quite like the full-blooded support of such mighty public figures as, uh, Andrew Murray and Peter Oborne.

I could and probably will continue, but let's stop here to observe that Hopi Sen, very charitably, is perhaps confusing "dominant" with "not at all dominant and in fact utterly powerless".

organic cheeseboard said...

I'm thinking that what he actually might mean, underneath his obvious bullshit, is that anti-interventionism reflects the dominant public mood. But rather than try to understand or explain why this might be,* or indeed, to try to challegne the widespread public unwillingness to get behind wars in faraway places,** he prefers to wank on about hypothetical futures etc.

* Because the one main reason - which begins with 'I' and ends with 'q', a pointless war, the justification for which the public were actively and repeatedly misled by their own government (and Sen worked for Tony Blair at the time as a spin doctor no less), a war which went on for far longer and caused far more casualties than the public were promised, specifically because nobody, least of all the True Believer Tony Blair, had thought to plan for what would follow the 'victory' (would people really have got behind the Iraq war as much as they did if Blair had made it clear our troops would need to be there for, say, 20 years, as is Sen's claim?), renders pretty much all his arguments null and void. When he discusses the idea that 'we'd only make things worse', he knows full well what he's doing - ignoring the evidence of every intervention we've been involved in since 2003, and maybe since 2001 as well. And I wonder why that is. I'll give him one thing, he keeps the 'nice guy' mask on pretty well.

** And to add to this, the whole 'ISIS are there now but they'll be among us soon' thing would hold a bit more weight if it weren't for the fact that ISIS fighters could easily end up here during or after any war anyway, and anyone who comes back from that area of the world is going to be monitored fairly closely by the spooks too (there are only 500 over there by the most generous estimate anyway). Launching a ground offensive, let alone air offensive, against them is not going to kill every single one of them. Equally, we were at war directly with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan for about ten years (and there certainly were Brits who signed up for that too), and not a single veteran of that launched a terror attack on British soil - why is this so different? It'd be awful if it happened, but it feels suspiciously liek the same kind of 45-minutes-to-destruction fearmongering we got in the run-up to Iraq.

flyingrodent said...

I'm thinking that what he actually might mean, underneath his obvious bullshit, is that anti-interventionism reflects the dominant public mood.

If that's what he means, he surely isn't doing a good job of saying so. I almost hope he does mean that, because it brings up the old "Parliament declining one ill-conceived war every thirty years or so doesn't look like a neo-isolationist, Fortress Britain mentality to me, yo" point.

I left a comment at the end of his post making similar points, but it's still floating in approval-netherspace. Perhaps I was being a bit negativist, or something.

When he discusses the idea that 'we'd only make things worse', he knows full well what he's doing - ignoring the evidence of every intervention we've been involved in since 2003, and maybe since 2001 as well. And I wonder why that is.

At heart, he seems to be saying something like "So what if all our wars are bloodbath fuck-ups? Now that we have an example of a war we weren't involved in being a bloodbath fuck-up also, we can now spread bloodbath fuck-ups far and wide in a spirit of moral superiority". Which may be a hard sell to the populace.

gregorach said...

Oh, Franklin Roosevelt told the people how he felt,
We damn near believed what he said.
He said, "Well, I hate war,
"And so does Eleanor,
"But we won't be safe 'til everybody's dead."

Anonymous said...

The same people who are now saying that Assad facilitated the rise of ISIS because Assad's regime didn't fight hard enough against ISIS were saying, up until about 12 months ago, that Assad's regime was about to fall (so let us give the opposition a few more AK47s to finish the job). Both assertions cannot be true. In fact neither of them is really true. Assad's regime was on the defensive (though never was it just about to fall) so it concentrated on defending and gradually extending the territory under its control. Attacking ISIS would have been just too risky.

The call that "Assad must go" was based on the assumption that Assad's regime would fall easily and that it was beyond the pale. Now it is clear that Assad's regime won't fall easily and there is a regime setting up shop that is even more brutal. Yet somehow the idea that Assad should go cannot be dropped.

As Patrick Cockburn points out, the missing element of the Obama plan is a framework for new peace negotiations between Mr Assad’s government and the moderate opposition such as it is.

Apparently this is a step too far for the UK and UK governments (and the usual media scribblers) because their bottom line is that "Assad must go". That means, in my view, that they're not serious about fighting ISIS or are quite happy with endless war.