Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Morning Reading -- September 10

It's a "good post" alright if that means collecting the longest possible list of negative questions followed by a comment thread with each commenter competing to be more cynical than those before. 
1. Is Kerry a national-security genius, or a guy who says whatever half-baked idea comes to mind, or both?
2. Why are the Russians seemingly so ready to aid Kerry and President Barack Obama by helping relieve Syria of its chemical weapons? Since when is Russia interested in helping the U.S. out of a jam, even if it burnishes its own reputation in the process?
3. Do these early signs that Russia might be interested in making a deal to avert an attack prove that threatening to attack was the right thing to do?
4. Who is making American policy on Syria? Kerry or Obama?
5. Why would Assad give up his chemical weapons? He saw what happened when Libya's late dictator Muammar Qaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction program, which is to say, he lost some of his deterrent power.
That's the start. He's just getting warmed up, cutting off the list with this:
15. How did the U.S. get so bollixed-up by the tin-pot dictator of a second-tier Middle East country?
Questions like these are usually reserved for Monday-morning quarterbacking, but the Syrian challenge is inspiring negative shit-slinging while the game is still in progress.

Two links here. 
I failed to look at the first before reading the second. The first link underscores the variety of different groups into which the Syrian conflict has morphed. A look at how the modern state we call "Syria" came into being is a study in geo-political map-making that has more to do with colonial hegemony than tribal, religious or ethnic identities of the populations involved. Such complexity can work at the state level, but it presumes a baseline of economic sufficiency and typically an autocratic form of government. Representative forms are much more contentious, even when all the parties have much in common. 
Here is a snip:
However, while numbers and force deployment capabilities are clearly very important, they are not the be all and end all. Like it or not, groups on the more extreme end of the spectrum, particularly those affiliated with al Qaeda, have proven remarkably adept at spreading their military resources across large swathes of territory, joining battles at the pivotal moment, and exploiting their superior organizational structures to establish political control and influence over territory. While some moderate groups have also presented tight levels of organization and command and control, jihadist and Salafist insurgent groups have by and large been notably more effective in this regard. 
The conflict itself also cannot be presented as a single dynamic or theater of battle. Instead, as the number of involved groups has proliferated and the armed conflict is now well into its third year, countless unique and sometimes interdependent theaters have emerged, each with its own distinctive characteristics and inter-group dynamics. While all micro theaters see distinctly local insurgent groups operate, nearly all of them involve larger single militant organizations or multi-group alliances which have come to operate on a more national basis, hence the countless unique dynamics across the country.
The second link is a quick read, easy to overlook, even easier to dismiss as a distraction. If the reader dares catching a glimpse of young men streaming into Syria to wage jihad (I suppose on both sides of this conflict) as real people with honest questions in their conscience, this short reading only takes a minute.
Many of the questions that Abu l-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, the shaykh who has long been the sole scholar on the Shari’a Council, has to answer deal with questions related to the classical jurisprudence (fiqh) of jihad that go back centuries: “Am I allowed to wage jihad if I am in debt?”, “I am able to do jihad. Does that mean I have to?” etc. One of the questions that also falls into this category is that of parental permission. Quite a few budding jihadis ask whether it is allowed to go to Syria if their parents refuse to let them go. According to the classical laws of Islam, parental permission is needed for someone to wage offensive jihad.
This gentle look at the jihadi fighters is a sharp contract with another source I came across just a few hours ago describing how KSA furnishes warriors from the kingdom's death row to be sent to Syria. This is from several months ago. 
Saudi Arabia Sent Death Row Inmates to Fight in Syria in Lieu of Execution
(AINA) -- A top secret memo sent by the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia reveals the Saudi Kingdom sent death-row inmates, sentenced to execution by decapitation, to Syria to fight Jihad against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences.
According to the memo, dated April 17, 2012, the Saudi Kingdom negotiated with a total of 1239 inmates, offering them a full pardon and a monthly salary for their families, who were to remain in the Kingdom, in exchange for "...their training in order to send them to Jihad in Syria."
The memo was signed by Abdullah bin Ali al-Rmezan, the "Director of follow up in Ministry of Interior."

And yet the confusion over Obama's military intentions is widespread and palpable. Why?

Part of the fault lies with the U.S. president and part with his unwanted inheritance. Very little has been clear about Obama's enforcement of the red line he drew for chemical-weapons use in Syria since it was first crossed several months ago. Now his decision to ask Congress has turned an issue of principle and U.S. credibility in the Middle East into a coin toss.

Much of the doubt about Obama's proposed enforcement, though, has also been encouraged by past U.S. malfeasance. It's like crying wolf, and the key relevant instances can be ranked in the following order:

  • Iraq (the George W. Bush administration and its allies invaded Iraq saying they knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he didn't);
  • Libya (the U.S. and its allies turned a United Nations Security Council resolution permitting a no-fly zone and protection of civilians into a license for regime change);
  • Halabja (the Ronald Reagan administration blocked sanctions against Saddam for using of chemical weapons against ethnic Kurds in Halabja in 1988, because at the time he was a U.S. ally against Iran.)
The cost of all this dishonesty is that few governments, and even among allies few citizens and lawmakers, trust the U.S. to dispense justice in the place of a UN Security Council so divided that it has been rendered impotent. What’s more, most Americans are only too happy to give up their country's role of global policeman. That's terrible news for Syrians and, even if we don't yet realize it, for the rest of us.
This next Twitter message is not a commentary on human behavior. 
However, it did appear at an odd moment in my timeline. 
I report. You decide. 

Damn right it is. 
Read this piece. 
Take your time and let it sink in. 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

No comments:

Post a Comment