Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Syria. Ecch. And I mean ecch.
I had hoped that reading this highly cited analysis by William R. Polk (posted by James Fallows) would clarify my thinking. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. Polk argues that the U.S. case against Assad is “not proved” – that Assad had no incentive to use chemical weapons in this manner, that the investigations on the ground were too cursory and that our other evidence is too ambiguous to permit firm conclusions.
But I am not persuaded that Assad had no motive to launch such an attack; Polk makes much of the fact that the attacks took place in the Damascus suburbs, not in rebel strongholds, but a big part of Assad’s strategy seems to involve terrorizing his populace to keep them in line. I’m not convinced his thinking would follow the schematic lines that Polk suggests. 
That said, I am as convinced as everyone else seems to be that there is no plausible scenario in which U.S. bombing raids do anything but turn Syria into an even worse clusterf*** than it is today. On one side, you have a brutal, murderous despot. On the other side, a bunch of vicious, fanatic rebel factions with as much commitment to secular democracy as Miley Cyrus has to public decorum. No American who paid even the slightest attention over the past decade can think it’s a winning strategy for us to insert ourselves in such a milieu.

I’m also struck, as Digby was, by the role of climate change in this mess. Syria has been experiencing “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” That would be a major challenge for even the most competent, humane and democratic government to handle, let alone a thugdom like Assad's. 

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