Aleppo

Apparently there is a massacre going in Aleppo and people are saying this is the next Srebrenica or Rwanda. The UN is busy making meaningless noises and British MPs and other public figures are saying “we must do something”.

I’m not sure what everyone expected to happen.  The Assad regime was always brutal, and especially so since the Arab Spring.  Indeed, it was the Syrian secret police detaining and torturing teenagers – not the CIA – which turned the protests into a civil war.  Assad was never going to treat any defeated rebels with kid gloves, and massacres were likely to follow.  This is generally what happens when an armed rebellion is put down by the government in most parts of the world, the civilian population cops it big time.  It’s a shitty situation.

Those saying “we must do something” are talking about aid drops, as if that will achieve anything.  Others are calling for military intervention, which is even more stupid.  There might have been a window of opportunity to remove Assad and install a better government in 2013, but this was voted down in Parliament.  That window slammed shut soon after and when the Russians entered the fray on the side of the Syrian government, it was effectively bricked up.  Rather than complain bitterly that the Russians have outsmarted the strategic genius of Obama and Kerry and continue to arm jihadists in the hope that some of them would one day become the president of a new, democratic Syria the West should have accepted that Assad is here to stay so long as the Russians are bombing the opposition for him, and dealt with that reality.  Once Russia got involved, and started deploying the same tactics it used to such great effect in Chechnya (i.e. massacre anyone in range, friend or foe) the least bad outcome in Syria was a swift end to the fighting, meaning Assad back in control and the rebels defeated or chased away.

It’s pretty awful, but civil wars are like this.  If no side can prevail quickly, the suffering starts to increase exponentially and this has been going on in Syria for nearly 6 years now.  After this long even a return to the bad old days of Assad must be looking pretty good.  Few people want Assad in power and nobody wants to reward the Russians for their tactics, but what alternative is there?  It’s about time the West realised this, and understood that the poor souls in Aleppo are going to die horribly but hopefully they’ll be the last who do.

Not that I think any of this is the West’s fault, save for perhaps their role in extending the war by providing whatever minuscule assistance they did to the opposition (no, I don’t believe the CIA had a role in fomenting the civil war or “destabilising” Assad any more than I think they left Russia with no choice but to invade Ukraine).  Others disagree, though:

George Osborne has told MPs that they share some responsibility for the terrible events happening in Syria.

The ex-chancellor said the unfolding tragedy in Aleppo had not “come out of a vacuum” but was due to “a vacuum of Western and British leadership”.

Parliament had helped enable a “terrorist state” to emerge by voting against military intervention against the Assad regime in 2013, he said.

No, sorry.  I don’t know and don’t care why individual MPs voted against intervention in Syria in 2013, but there were an awful lot of very good reasons for doing so and not very many for getting involved.  Top of the list of reasons why not to get involved was our experience in Iraq and a public who is damned tired of fighting people who hate us supposedly on behalf of people who also hate us.  Britain made a lot of enemies by helping to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, and there was very little by way of gratitude from those who we ostensibly came to save.  We Brits are a thick-headed lot, but we seem to have learned our lesson in that regard: no more wars thanks, at least not for a while.  And especially no more wars to bring peace and democracy to Arabic lands ruled by oppressive dictators.  We’ve had a gutful of that, and all that comes with it.

However, those who really need to take note are those who live in the Middle East and places like it.  The US-led intervention in Iraq was deemed a “war on Muslims” and the Americans and their allies demonised in every possible way by locals and foreigners alike for how they executed the war and handled the aftermath.  They were not just criticised, which would have been more than justified, they were made out to be a rogue nation, carrying out atrocities on a scale not seen since World War II.  This was bollocks on stilts.

But the demonisation worked.  Well done.  America and its allies were detested, and eventually they left.  Only a short time later when people wanted them to come back to prevent yet more butchery, they politely declined.  Instead the locals got an altogether different military turning up, one whose savagery surpasses anything the Americans could dream up never mind get away with, and whose population back home would be completely unconcerned if indeed they bothered to learn about it.  And now we have Aleppo.  Suddenly the thought of the US military being in charge isn’t so bad is it?

But it’s too late.  America’s enemies both in the Middle East and the West who engaged in relentless hyperbole, propaganda, lies, and violence to force Westerners out of that part of the world are now going to have to deal with the grim reality that they’re not coming back, and the Russians are there to stay.  There will be people out there, possibly even some spending the night in a cellar in Aleppo waiting for the death squads to come at dawn, thinking they ought to have been more careful what they wished for.

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36 thoughts on “Aleppo

  1. Tim, a fairly accurate assessment. The Russians, as their actions over the Somali Pirate problem demonstrated, have ruthlessness on their side when dealing with the multiple issues created by Western meddling.

  2. The expression is “least bad”. I don’t know where “least worst” came from but I’d guess California.

  3. Bill,

    The Russians are ruthless, but I don’t see the issues they’re dealing with in Syria as having much to do with Western meddling.

    dearieme,

    Good point: post corrected.

  4. You may well be right in your assessment, Mr Tim, but I can’t help feeling that whatever happens out there it all boils down — as it seems to me everything does in the Middle East — to tribes falling out. Given the two main branches of their dominant religion (who are only united on their desire to remove Christians from the area) are at each other’s throats then the various shades of tribal rule won’t hold back in slugging it out for power.

    Even the Israeli-Arab issues are Semites falling out, and whatever I feel about the rights and wrongs on each side perhaps we should let them get on with it and sort it out their way. Yes, I know the problem is in importing so many ‘refugees’ to the west we are inviting their stormtroops too, but Europe lost the plot a couple of decades ago so what did we expect?

    The one thing that Russia is doing, when all is said and done about winners and losers, is they are getting to test their weapons and military command structures. Perhaps killing everything in their sights doesn’t take much planning, but they are getting to do what the Yanks have done for years and practice war on someone else’s doorstep.

    We live in interesting times, and some of us may yet survive it.

  5. Watcher,

    Given the two main branches of their dominant religion (who are only united on their desire to remove Christians from the area) are at each other’s throats then the various shades of tribal rule won’t hold back in slugging it out for power.

    Indeed, they’re in need of a Thirty Year War.

    The one thing that Russia is doing, when all is said and done about winners and losers, is they are getting to test their weapons and military command structures. Perhaps killing everything in their sights doesn’t take much planning, but they are getting to do what the Yanks have done for years and practice war on someone else’s doorstep.

    That’s true. And they at least appear to be fighting to win, whereas us…

  6. … we’re apparently fighting so that low-life public interest lawyers can make money out of hounding the blokes (and from today’s news, the lasses) that got sent there to do the dirty work.

  7. We could usefully learn from what warlike measures Dizzy took about the Bulgarian massacres. Bugger all: not our problem.

    N.B. In the 19th century the “Eastern Question” referred to the Balkans.

  8. Tim. Primary source; Eva Bartlett, an independent journalist from Canada in this UN hosted press conference.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebE3GJfGhfA
    Re Western meddling in the region, I cite funding for groups like ISIL with help from the Saudis, the destabilisation of Libya with the overt encouragement of the then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. I could go on. These are in the public domain, not conspiracy theories.

  9. George Osborne is a nobody, the British parliament backed the wrong horse and now May a sheila is kissing the ring of the House of Saud, they are a fucking disgrace and not to be trusted.

    Aleppo is being liberated.

    The majority of Syrians always wanted Assad to remain in power.

    No one in their right mind ever wanted a Salfist regime.

  10. I’m reminded of that Churchill quote; ‘When going though hell, keep going’.

    Can’t see any outcome that works other than hope for a rapid and conclusive outcome.

  11. No man in his right mind would ever interfere in the breakdown of a relationship between a man and is wife. All you can do is watch from the sidelines and support your favored party once the dust has settled.

    Likewise, no country should ever get involved in another country’s internal upheavals. If shit needs to be sorted out then let them sort it out. It will always be brutal, awful, unfair, and tragic. Welcome to life. Kind of like some other civil wars in the past such as, oh I don’t know, the English civil war and the American civil war.

  12. @Bardon. More like cock-up by the western nations. Chess playing may be close to a Russian national sport, but I bet they’re as surprised as all get out over their ‘victory’.

  13. @Bill

    Still, it takes two to tango.

    I am chocking this one up, so far, as a great Russian military victory.

    Be careful with your criticism of Western military prowess there is whole body of people who swear blind the the Wet rules supreme on this score both on paper and in practice.

    I read your post over at your gaff. One additional comment would be that no discussion about the Dogs of War in this instance is complete without the mention of the Qatari role in the whole sordid affair. And maybe why Washington turned a blind eye to their murderous exploits.

  14. Bill,

    Thanks for the link, but I’m not going to watch a 52 minute video of a UN conference featuring a Canadian journalist in the expectation I will find a convincing argument that the West is responsible for the Syrian Civil War.

    Re Western meddling in the region, I cite funding for groups like ISIL

    The US funded ISIL?

    with help from the Saudis,

    The Saudis funded ISIL, yes.

    the destabilisation of Libya with the overt encouragement of the then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

    Yes, the West meddled in Libya, but I’m talking about Syria. I know some like to lump them all together as one region, but what happened in Libya has no bearing on what happened in Syria, save for some similarities and the fact that they were all affected by the Arab Spring.

    More like cock-up by the western nations. Chess playing may be close to a Russian national sport, but I bet they’re as surprised as all get out over their ‘victory’.

    Agreed: the most depressing thing about all of this is Russia has scored a victory thanks to an utterly incompetent American administration thinking Russia bombing Syria was something the US should care about.

  15. Bardon,

    I am chocking this one up, so far, as a great Russian military victory.

    Oh yes. The encirclement of Von Paulus’ sixth army, the siege of Leningrad, Kursk, the capture of Berlin, and the flattening of Aleppo. I am hearing rumours that young Russian soldiers are dying in the rubble with Putin’s name on their lips.

  16. The majority of Syrians always wanted Assad to remain in power.

    Oh Gawd, you’re not going to cite the election results again, are you?

  17. Cynic,

    we’re apparently fighting so that low-life public interest lawyers can make money out of hounding the blokes (and from today’s news, the lasses) that got sent there to do the dirty work.

    That prick should be chucked off the nearest cliff.

  18. I hope that at the end of this there’s some serious analysis (hopefully done by the likes of Colonel Richard Kemp) into the overall collateral damage and lasting problems from recent Russian-Iranian methods versus those employed by the West.

    Would be interesting to know whether the more… direct approach leads to more or less non-combatant suffering.

    (I’m thinking of the debate over whether using nuclear weapons at the end of WW2 saved lives overall, on both sides)

  19. The use of nukes in WW2 saved lives, but mostly lives after WW2. Because we saw first hand what they can do.

    Seeing that – knowing that – has made people very very reluctant to use them since.

    Had the first nuclear war not involved just one nuclear power with just two bombs, the first nuclear war would instead have involved more than one power with a lot more than two bombs.

    It’s obviously shitty to have a nuke dropped on you (not as shitty as having one dropped near you though), but I think the deployment of two rather limited weapons against an enemy already on the brink of collapse was one of those spectacular pieces of timing. Arguably the most amazingly lucky timing of any event of the last thousand years. Japan could have capitulated a few weeks earlier, or the bombs been ready a few weeks later, and we would not be sat here today having a conversation on the non-existent internet. We’d have bombed ourselves back to the stone age in the 1950s.

  20. “and the flattening of Aleppo.”

    There are many winners here, the people of Syria especially, although Aleppo will go down as the national Syrian army’s victory, this belongs to them as it is they that have ousted the crazed foreign head chopping invaders out of there, the locals will sleep better now that the mad men have gone.

    The Russian victory is on a different scale and it started when they turned the Syrian negotiation table upside down overnight. Who knows what comes next, with Qatar saying it will not back down.

    Its also a victory of sorts for Iran who have stuck by their neighbors through thick and thin.

    “We consider it our duty to support the flag-bearers of the fight against Takfiri terrorism, who are trying to purge their homeland of aggressors,” Rouhani said, describing the victory in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, as a great achievement by “the united Syrian nation” against the terrorists and their sponsors.

  21. The Russian victory is on a different scale and it started when they turned the Syrian negotiation table upside down overnight.

    Indeed, they now have a robust, stable, and popular regime as a staunch ally and have secured themselves a strong foothold in a strategically significant country chock-full of natural resources. America must be weeping in frustration.

  22. “America must be weeping in frustration.”

    Yes they wont take to kindly to Russia re-establishing itself in the Arab world and east Mediterranean. They must be pretty pissed that they actually launched air strikes from their now very close ally of Iran, warmed many local relations including military, had a noticeable improvement in military actions and air cover and not enjoyed watching the naval strikes especially the symbolic shelling launched from their rust bucket aircraft carrier.

    Yes the yanks will find it very hard to cop Putin’s new found posture and status in the region. Especially since it means they will now have to work harder to win back ground in the region, spend more budget defending it, all this from an already stretched thin global theatre.

    Yes they wont be happy about this setback at all.

  23. Especially since it means they will now have to work harder to win back ground in the region, spend more budget defending it, all this from an already stretched thin global theatre.

    It’ll be Trump’s top priority, I’m sure.

  24. “It’ll be Trump’s top priority, I’m sure.”

    Its not in his job description to set military strategy that is for the Joint Chiefs and military advisers not the civilian President. As for his policy on Syria he says that he supports Russia in ridding Syria of the bad guys.

  25. If no side can prevail quickly, the suffering starts to increase exponentially

    Almost makes one favour the quick nuke.

  26. I’d just add, the model I’d suggest works best is the Sri Lankan one. A quick, brutal, bloody, overwhelming victory seems to draw far fewer long term problems than a low level, ‘gentler’ conflict that drags on.

    In the same way that Guantanamo Bay was a ‘moral’ option, when drone executions seem to result in much less negative coverage.

  27. David,

    Didn’t the Tamil independence movement drag on for decades, and then one day the Sri Lankan government just went in and ended it? It’s a good example, and I would probably agree that a quick, brutal war is better than one chugging along for decades.

  28. Yes, it rumbled on since the 1970’s. I suspect it was the large influx of Chinese hardware to the Sri Lankan army that allowed it to take the gloves off and drive the Tamil’s into the sea.

  29. Adam,

    Yes, I don’t think there’s much to argue with him saying that Assad is a better option than the rag-tag bunch of rebels ranging from moderates to full-on jihadists that are opposing him.

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