Will Syria *ever* come back?

In just 4 years, over half of Syria’s population of 22m has been killed, displaced or fled the country.

Tweet here, by Paul Kirby.


I suspect the only "solution" is partition of both Iraq and Syria, one Sunni and the other Shiite. Even partition may not end the Sunni ambition for hegemony over the entire region (i.e. defeat the Shiites (Alawites) in Syria, the Shiites in Iraq, and the Shiites in Iran). I wouldn't bet against the Sunnis, as they have shown a willingness to engage in the most heinous acts of violence, are supported by our Saudi friends, and, inexplicably, have the support of a large group of American foreign policy experts.

"I wouldn’t bet against the Sunnis, as they [...] are supported by our Saudi friends, [...] a large group of American foreign policy experts"
And from Turkey.

How much does the rest of the Levante (non-Isis Syria, Lebanon and Jordan) wish to be behind the Israeli West Bank Barrier these days?

Worked for India..?

There are two Shia zones, one adjoining the Mediterranean and one on the Persian Gulf. They'll be separated by a vast space of Sunni country, including a desert. We saw how such an arrangement worked for East and West Pakistan. No reason to think such a geographically distributed Shia state will be anything other than a temporary configuration. Now 3 states, one Sunni, one Shia, and one Alawi, might just work.

What about the druze and the christians?

Send them back to America where they, er, came from.

I guess the Kurds just can't catch a break in this world.

"killed, displaced or fled" seems a very broad bin.

One would think that the split is interesting.

Yeah, if you look at the tweet it turns out that out of the ~12 million, 7.6 million are "internally displaced" i.e. still in the country. So the tweet is really overselling itself.

So "only" four million are dead or fled the country?

Personally I think we should be arming the refugees and sending them back. It is ridiculous that a ragtag army of 30,000 can terrorize millions.

Interesting idea.

But then again, how many times has the West armed "good guys" just to find the guns turned back on us the moment they are finished with the first task?

In the fictions of John Le Carre, perhaps. Not anywhere else.


Our clients were the antecedents of the 'Northern Alliance'. They've not been firing on us.

We don't need to give them Stinger missiles.

Knock off Kalashnikovs and RPG's manufactured in China (or Vietnam or the Philippines) would be enough. If you liked we could stick transponders in them so we can find them after the war is over.

I frankly don't care if the refugees are the "good guys". I want the Syrians to sort out their internal problems internally rather than throwing their garbage over the fence into Europe.

Art Deco - Of course I'm referring to the fact that CIA armed and trained much of what turned out to be the precursor of Al Qaeda.

But you raise a good and fair point that the Northern Alliance did not turn on us, although their leaders may not be so pro-women or pro-religious freedom as we might like.

Also, the USA was very busy arming Saddam in the 1980s in order to oppose Iran, but then he later became enemy number one after turning his guns on Kuwait. (While sympathetic for the stateless Kurds, I hardly hold it against him for using violence against people who took up arms against the state - you would be dead very fast if you took up arms against the US government too.)

Also, many people were in support of heavily arming all opponents to Assad, but thankfully Obama was cautious on that one - it turned out that violent radical fundamentalists numbered heavily in those rebelling against Assad.

"In the fictions of John Le Carre, perhaps. Not anywhere else."


Belgium is just between of France and Germany and you can look "The Rape of Belgium" for details of what happened during WW1.

The 4 year war yielded around 1.5 million refugees in Netherlands, Britain and France. Around 20% of Belgium population in 1914. Ignoring internally displaced refugees (just for the math......because ignoring 7.6 million refugees is a bit of a stretch) and then dividing the 4 million beyond frontiers refugees by 22 million people in Syria before the war yields.......0.18 or 18% of total population. Was "the Rape of Belgium" overselling the situation or different standards exist for Syria?

Belgium survived as an entity because they could blame the invaders but Syria has an internal war. The refugee distress is comparable to what happened in Belgium but the outcome for Syria could be similar to Yugoslavia.

No, I think the Syrian situation is pretty bad. But it's still iffy to exaggerate using a not-so-sensible binning procedure.

You could even use "killed, displaced, fled, injured, traumatized, unemployed & malnourished" which might then cover almost 100% of the Syrian population.

but the outcome for Syria could be similar to Yugoslavia -

"outcome"? "could be"?

The State of Syria, like the States of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, no longer exists. People act as if history ended in 1946.

Creative destruction - Not just for economists anymore!

what are we including by saying 1946 rather than 1945?

I'm using "1946" to refer to immediate post-WW2 as the Allies finalized Middle Eastern and European borders.

The only notable amendments to boundaries in the Near East and North Africa after 1925 would have been the assembly of Libya in 1951 and the partition of mandatory Palestine in 1948/49.

And the fact that everybody pretended Kurdistan didn't exist, and Syria should be ruled by the Alawite minority and majority Maronite enclave for Lebanon. And give Antioch to Turkey. And create "Jordan" and a geographically discontiguous Palestine. And dole out oil-producing regions to a few families.

Nigga, pleaz. The ME is a cobbled-together mess. Like somebody else mentioned, maybe in 30 years their borders will reflect the actual nations.

Belgium survived, but even 100 years later it's economic developement still significantly lags Holland and Luxembourg. Prior to WW1 it was the wealthiest Benelux country.

Take out French-speaking Wallonia and they are about equal with the Netherlands (which in turn is almost equal to the U.S.). Luxembourg is not really a fair comparison and is much wealthier than the U.S.

My preference is that they kill each other until not one survives.

Stay classy, T. Shaw

Do the children get killed by the adults in your preferred scenario or do they kill each other? I guess the older kids can kill the kids a few years younger, and the babies.

Hey, you go try and civilize them.

Why do that? We want them all dead, don't we? Every single one of those filthy beasts.

The real question is: Will the countries where the Syrians are headed recover? Having a whole bunch of Syrians in one place hasn't worked out well for Syria, why should it be any different for anywhere else?

Having a whole bunch of Irish in one place didn't work out too well for mid 19th century Ireland. Worked much better for USA?

Besides, you forget dilution.

In 19th c. US, there were no welfare payments to encourage parasitism and no civil rights laws for the immigrants to beat their hosts over the head with. You either adapted to the culture of the US's ethnic majority, or you lived a marginal existence.

Are there enticing welfare payments in the nations most of these Syrian refugees are headed to?

Scandinavia and Germany seem to be the destinations of choice.....

They are headed for Europe, the lands of social democratic milk-and-honey. Mostly Britain, Sweden and Germany.

They aren't stopping in Turkey, which gives them enthusiastic passage for parts westward and northward.

@Cliff @Anti-Gnostic

Yes, you are right. My bad.

@Rahul: Western Europe in general? yeah. They end up in Austria, Germany, Italy, Scandinavian countries and France (some Syrians wish to stay in France for historical reasons, but many would actually like to get from France to UK, but so far they are mostly unsuccessful). Now, even in Italy they actually get princely (relative to where they are coming from, anyway.. and more than hundred of thousands of Italians on social pensions get anyway) treatment, and Italy is basically bankrupted.

"Having a whole bunch of Irish in one place didn’t work out too well for mid 19th century Ireland."

No it didn't, did it?

"Worked much better for USA?"

Well after a generation or so they stopped being Irish (in any meaningful way) and become Americans. If I thought that the Syrians headed for Germany might become Germans then I'd be a lot more enthusiastic about the coming.... collision.

"Besides, you forget dilution"

There's also concentration... (use google translate to get the jist)


The 19th century Irish were ruled by a fairly brutal foreign power. Or, what is worse, they were ruled by a local sect that was favoured by the foreign power. It was like Lebanon would be if Hezbollah actually ruled openly, and Shiites owned all the land.

Tyler finally notices the Middle East. Which is good, because there are a lot of fascinating things going on there:

Libya and Turkey open their borders
Majority rule prevails in Syria and Iraq
Multiculturalism achieves its denouement

Cf. the Lebanese Civil War, 1975 - 1990. They came back, quite possibly without ever having gone away at all.

Or Cambodia, god help us.

The problem is ISIS. They are exploding exponentially everywhere -- Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan... The war on terror is now actually a war because there's now an actual enemy that grows stronger with every act of violence against it. As long as there's somebody fighting ISIS, there will be money and support pouring in. As long as western societies produce sexless losers there will be cannon fodder pouring in. The French, Tunisian, or Russian version of the American kid who commits a school shooting is a recruit, and the bar is much lower because they dangle exactly what these tormented psychopaths crave right in front of them. Live out your gruesome fantasies!

Solutions? Containment. Take away plunder and show the world that torture, rape, and slavery are not the foundation for a prosperous society. Wait them out, let them destroy the areas under their control, and they'll eventually become passe like communism and arab nationalism did before them. Smash them here, and they pop up there. Meanwhile, reform the western societies. Legalize prostitution. Make love not war. Save what you can in Syria -- the Kurdish and Druze regions, end this nonsense about "moderate rebels." Disband every intelligence agency, while you're at it. Pivot to Iran, release the 21 or whatever redacted pages of the 9/11 report, vote against the House of Saud republican candidate, tell the Israelis to stuff it and stop whitewashing the settlement BS, send stern back-channel messages to Turkey about the shit they're up to while negotiating in the back room between the Turks and the PYD. Wait for the damn thing to burn out and maybe in a century you may see a glimmer of hope if you're lucky.

"... show the world that torture, rape, and slavery are not the foundation for a prosperous society."

Which part of the world exactly needs to be taught this? Do they have MOOCs?

Athens, Rome, the Confederate States of America...

"As long as western societies produce sexless losers..."

I would argue that people are having more sex than ever. But now there is birth control and condoms.

"stop whitewashing the settlement BS"

I agree completely. Ongoing settlements make for excellent anti-Israel propaganda, and it is well deserved. We cannot treat ancient scripture as a replacement for modern treaty (but the US Christian right appears to disagree.

Ongoing settlements make for excellent anti-Israel propaganda, and it is well deserved

It is only considered such by people with an antecedent animus toward the Jews. If the Arab authorities want the settlements dismantled, they have and have had many options to conclude a deal with their Jewish neighbors. This they have not done and will not do. That aside, 80% of the settler population resides in settlements which were established prior to 1987. "Settlement" means sticking another prefabricated dwelling next to an already existing dwelling. Another 15% live in Modin Illit, which is smack on the Green Line.

The complaints about settlements are sheer humbug propagated by the foolish and the fraudulent.

Nonsense, Art. Settlement expansion and theft of Arab land is a huge root of Palestinian animus against the Jewish state.

Nonsense, Art. Settlement expansion and theft of Arab land is a huge root of Palestinian animus against the Jewish state.

Only in the heads of the addled and the lying. The settlements are not 'expanding' and the Arabs do nothing practical to arrange for the settlements to be dismantled. They'd have to bargain with their neighbors do to that, and that is something they do not care to do. Getting rid of the settlements is not worth the price, because the price is conceding that the Jews are not going anywhere and conceding that a fuzzily defined 7-digit population of Arabs will not have a franchise to settle in Israel.

Any conceivable theft of Arab land happened 70 years ago and was a result of a war started by the Arabs. There have not been any new settlements in decades. Israel dismantled the settlements in Gaza and turned over government to the people there. If you are honest, you recognize there is nothing that will satisfy Hamas (Gaza government) short of annihilation of Israel.

Just downplaying and deflecting. I like how your only argument is "all the Arabs have to do is agree to what Israel wants".

What Israel wants is to be left alone. What the Arabs want is to be given a pass to settle in Israel at their own discretion. That's a non-negotiable among the political class and the populace on the West Bank and Gaza, something affirmed by about 2/3 of the Arabs polled. A subset of these, north of a third of the Arab population, fancy a 'solution' to the conflict is dissolution of the state of Israel.

You would not hold to the position that is modal among the Arabs unless you were in a position to dictate terms to your enemy. They are in no such position, but the pretense is preferable to them rather than accomplishing anythin.

Yes, but what Israel wants is recognition of their right to exist. Not so much to ask, really.

Israel occasionally offers bogus deals with clauses designed to ensure that they will never be accepted, precisely so people like you will say things like what you just said.

Please remember, the propaganda runs heavily on both sides, and the Israeli propaganda has heavy help from a US media that is terrified of be labelled as "anti-semitic" for any critique of apartheid and military occupation in Palestine/Israel.

"I would argue that people are having more sex than ever."

I think they were referring to the sort of crowd that tends to join ISIS. Involuntarily celibate, frustrated boys who otherwise have no sense of meaning or purpose in life. To their defense, western culture can be vacuous... it's not as easy to find purpose in life in the West as it is when struggling to survive as a Sunni insurgent.

IIRC young American men are having less sex these days according to statistics.

Solutions? Containment.

Those are not solutions. They are silly fantasies informed by poisonous and ill-informed prejudcies.

"Legalize prostitution", "disband every intelligence agency" and "wait".

This program will surely cure the problem that is ISIS.

Only if Assad--or another dictator--reasserts control over the place.

Syria's even less viable as a unified, democratic nation-state than Iraq. At least in Iraq, a somewhat rational partitioning into more "natural" nations is conceivable given the demographic distribution. Syria, in contrast, is a hodgepodge of ethno-religious factions.

Earlier this year, Joseph Nye characterized the situation as the Middle East entering its version of the Thirty Years War. I'm inclined to agree and, as awful as it sounds, to think it's overdue. The artificial Frankenstein states glued together from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire are coming apart, and the Middle East is starting to sort itself out just as Europe had to.

Western efforts should focus on: 1) containing the conflict to the region, 2) providing humanitarian aid, specifically keeping conditions in refugee camps as livable as possible so as to stem migrant flow, and 3) providing asylum to Christian populations--e.g. Assyrians, Chaldeans--who have no realistic prospect of safety in the region for the foreseeable future.

Beyond that, as James Baker has said, we've expended enough blood and treasure in the region.

"providing asylum to Christian populations–e.g. Assyrians, Chaldeans–who have no realistic prospect of safety in the region for the foreseeable future"

I read a casual comment once that in countries with a large muslim majority Christian minorities do best under the protection of a monarch or dictator. Democracy spells disaster for Christians (and other religious minorities) as the muslim majority uses elections to strengthen their posiiton and clamp down on minorities. I can't think of any counter-examples.

Maybe since a dictator is not exactly a majority choice he finds natural kinship in keeping the minorities his allies just to keep the dangerous majority in check and from uniting.

The Christians in Syria support the govt, probably for that reason (democracy, or should I say "Middle Eastern democracy", spells disaster for Christians and other minorities).

The experience of the Coptic Christians in Egypt is insightful here. They were doing relatively well under the Mubarak regime but are struggling now because the Muslim-majority population treats them as unwanted "others". IS beheads them as apostates.

The recent case of elections in Egypt seems to prove your point. They seemed to mistake an electoral majority with the right to impose their will on the ENTIRE population, thereby earning support for the military to step back in and crush political Islam, yet again.

People forget these were all viable countries with real middle classes in the 1950s and 60s. Even Afghanistan had real schools and women wearing real clothes.

Then national socialism, communism, and islamism arrived and tore up the the Mideast like dogs fighting over a chew toy, and liberal democracy had too few defenders to survive anywhere.

The only sorting out going on seems to be the tragic removal of the last vestiges of civilization.

Then again we forget that most of history has been a tale of anarchy & violence with spurts of civilization every now and then.

The default state seems anarchy not civilization.

"The default state seems anarchy not civilization."

Yes, but there is a pretty strong trend towards civilization. The barbarians do seem to crop up in some form or another, but civilization seems inherently stronger than anarchy. If you look at the areas of the world inhabited by man, they are probably at a historical high and simultaneously the percentage of those inhabited areas under civilized control is also at an all time high. The areas of the globe under anarchy or even under the control of a monarch have been steadily shrinking for centuries.

People forget all kind of stuff.

There was no "liberal democrazy" in the countries you mention.
School for the richest part of a country, real clothes for the women in Kabul and so, IS NOT the same as liberal democracy.

Youre right though, that a lot og things have gone even worse than they used to be.

I like the phrase "liberal democrazy" - I may use it sometimes! ; -)

No, most of these countries really were functioning republics back then, particularly Iraq in the 1970s. They may not have been very liberal by our standards, but heck even in the US we still had Jim Crow and homosexuality was still considered a mental illness.

Most of them would have compared reasonably well to South Korea or Taiwan, and been much better off than (say) Maoist China.

"No, most of these countries really were functioning republics back then, particularly Iraq in the 1970s."

Iraq was under Ba'athist control by the 1970s. Preceding that was the Iraqi Republic which came to power in a military coup in 1958, overthrowing the Hashemite monarch installed by the Brits after WWI.

No, most of these countries really were functioning republics back then, particularly Iraq in the 1970s. They may not have been very liberal by our standards, but heck even in the US we still had Jim Crow and homosexuality was still considered a mental illness.

Professional people disapproved of sodomy in 1975. How unutterably awful.

Iraq was not in 1975 a 'functioning republic', nor was it ever. It suffered a madcap populist military regime from 1958 to 1963, a sanguinary fascist regime for some months in 1963 and again from 1968 forward, and an ordinary military regime from 1963 to 1968. It was consistently given the lowest possible ratings for civil liberties and political rights by Freedom House during the period running from 1972 to 2003 and racked up a body count in six digits quite apart from the Iran-Iraq War.

The 'functioning republics' in the Near East, North Africa, and Central Asia during the period running from 1963 to 2010 were Turkey (with some interruptions), Cyprus, Israel, Armenia (after a fashion from 1990 forward), Georgia (after a fashion from 1992 forward), Pakistan (intermittently from 1971 forward), and Kyrgyzstan (from 199? forward, intermittently). None of these are Arab states. Electoral institutions and continuity of institutions has been characteristic of Arab monarchies (Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan (in some measure after 1988), and Bahrain (now and again).

Art Deco - There's a difference between "disapprove of sodomy" and being a class of unaccountable actors who could essentially imprison them with a diagnosis of "mental illness" and try to force them to change their ways.

It is a very strong symbol of how psychiatry is used to medicalize political and social opinion/practice, and until the field stands up as a whole to mock its historical self for such injustices (including mass illegal incarceration of civil rights activists as being "schizophrenic" in the 1970s under the so-called "Protest psychosis"), the field of pseudo-scientists and wannabe doctors in white jackets has perfectly earned the scorn of a great number of people.

Nathan I have news for you. All psychiatric judgments are normative judgments. Some of them are derived from commonly recognized understandings which have practical import on a day to day basis; these refer to people who are a palpable public order problem and a terrible time sink to their families. Others are broadly popular but are judgments of less palpable problems. Others exist only within the intellectual constructs of mental health professionals. The evaluation of homosexuality occupied some territory in all three realms. The taxonomy applied to homosexuality is actually more defensible than a great deal of the crap peddled by psychiatrists at the time (unless it's your contention that marriage and child-rearing are mere 'lifestyle options').

I do not know where you got the idea that it was at all common to subject homosexuals to civil commitment. Consensual sodomy in New York (to take one example) was a class B misdemeanor and treated no more severely by the law than patronizing a prostitute. If you stayed out of public toilets and known pick up spots in public parks, your chances of getting shnagged even for that were pretty minimal. The case which gave rise to Bowers v. Hardwick incorporated a perfect storm of improbabilities. Police arrived at a man's apartment to serve a warrant on him and were met at the door with a roommate who escorted him to the man's bedroom, where he was going at it with a friend. Bayard Rustin was hauled in on criminal charges once. He was arrested while sodomizing a pair of adolescents in a parked car. The New York Court of Appeals case which rendered the penal code provision on consensual sodomy non-enforceable arose from similar circumstances.

Yes, Iraq was a functioning republic in the 1970s, despite being led by Baathists and generally being terrible on civil rights --they held flawed elections and ruled the country without the massive violence and totalitarianism that characterized the 1980s onward. No, they were not anything like an OECD country, but then no one's claiming that.

For reference, South Korea (also a functioning republic) had military rule and several revolutions at various points during the 60s and 70s.

1970s Iraq had a fast-growing economy, a middle class, and a technocrats -- it's still widely considered the country's golden age, because things got much worse after.

Again, you do not know what you're talking about.

The only Arab countries which held competitive elections, flawed or otherwise, during the period running between 1963 and 1989 were Morocco, .Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Lebanon. Iraq was exceedingly dissimilar to any of these loci and was in 1975 a ghastly police state whose severity was second to none.

I have news for you: any society which is in possession of a core of urban merchants and a core of civil servants has a 'middle class'. Every Arab country is graced with one.

TallDave, you need to stop talking about this subject because you're just making a clown of yourself. Your portrait of Iraq ca. 1975 is an utter fantasy. See Kanan Makiya on the reality.

Great points Nathan -- look what happened to Turning.

BTW, check out out the 1972 Freedom House rating of Afghanistan -- they were actually rated better than Portugal! Sadly they fell right to the bottom shortly thereafter.

Anyways my point was just that the arc of the region is tragic, not inevitable.


Art Deco -- find me any source that agrees with your claim Iraq hasn't gotten worse since the 1970s. Even one.

Art Deco -- You do realize the entire thrust of Kanan Makiya's writing is how much worse off the country became under Saddam, who took power in 1979? See for instance:



Good points. But don't forget inept Arab Nationalism (you may be calling that, not inaccurately, national socialism). It failed so spectacularly that it spurred on the other modes.

Arab Nationalism is a regional flavor of national socialism, the Baath party being the most obvious example, but yes their failures certainly spurred on the islamists.

It is interesting to me that the regional struggle between different ethnic and religious groups is happening when the energy markets are undergoing profound changes. Oil and natural gas prices will stay low for years to come due to fracking, lng exports, electric cars, new producers etc. will this dampen the conflicts because the main funders won't have the money? Or will instability increase because even the main funders will be unstable once there isn't enough money to keep the populace happy?

With the decline in costs of wind and solar power over the past decade (quite dramatically for solar), it's quite possible that natural gas has an effective price cap. Granted, that price cap is almost certainly higher than the current market price, but it may well be lower than the historical average price of natural gas. A large chunk of the market value of natural gas is in the form of electricity production. Even by conservative estimates the wholesale levelized cost of solar is less than twice the cost of natural gas.


Even if the intermittent nature of solar and wind restrict their over all usage, they still have a lot of potential market share room to grow from their current small market share. Particularly when paired with peaking natural gas plants. If you view solar and wind as fuel saving machinery for a natural gas fired grid, then one would assume that in an era of low cost borrowing, a substantial amount of such machinery will be built. And since the cost of that fuel saving machinery keeps dropping, it places downward pressure on the price of natural gas.

I'm not a pie in the sky optimist, but if one projects a price drop over the next 15 years at the rate we've seen over the last 15 years, then it's clear that solar/wind will quickly become market competitive without subsidies. It's quite possible that wind is already competitive in the US without subsidies.

I think this is over-optimistic. Reasons:

1) Wind and solar power have big up-front carbon costs. If they become more competitive, expect the oil/gas industry to be more aggressive about pointing this out. So wind and solar might end up paying some carbon taxes, should those become more serious.

2) Energy storage: energy is created on demand with fossil fuels, but wind and solar create energy at the whim of the wind and the sun -- i.e. not necessarily at the time that people want to use energy. This creates an energy storage (i.e. battery) problem that still hasn't been solved.

3) Natural gas also has a learning curve ahead, since it's been getting more emphasis recently. So we can expect natural gas costs per unit energy to go down too. Whether natural gas will still be cheaper than solar/wind as they all get more efficient, who knows?

I would expect a decreasing revenue stream from oil to fuel a lot of unrest in oil-producing countries, as the governments involved have less and less wealth to hand around to keep everyone happy. Popular subsidies start getting cut, unemployment goes up while social spending goes down, the army can't be bought off with cool new toys.

Longer-term, countries like Saudi Arabia have huge influence because of their oil. I wonder what their future looks like if oil is much less important.

Pining for the good old days of 2008, when we were constantly assured all the violence in the Mideast was because of US forces.

And ISIS was barely a rumor, now they're shooting up Chattanooga.

Next step: nuclear ISIS vs nuclear Iran!

"Pining for the good old days of 2008, when we were constantly assured all the violence in the Mideast was because of US forces. "

All violence and poverty in the Middle East and Latin America is the result of previous US policies, current US policies or future US policies. /derp

There is a solution to the refugee problem: humiliation!

Set a threshold, say 1%. Between countries that cause more than the threshold fraction of population to become refugees, recolonize the top contributor of refugees every year. It has now conclusively been proven that the colonizing powers often resulted in better conditions for the weak than self rule.

Political science is pretty messed up, when they cannot use the one descriptor (in addition to IQ) that affects societal outcomes, degree by which the average inhabitant is a righteous man.

Who wants colonies any more? Even if you offered Syria on auction, who's bidding?

Russia! For some reason they love to invade and occupy hellholes.

Wouldn't a Russian invasion just spur more radical Islamic resistance fighters?

That's what we saw in Afghanistan and it ended poorly.

Heck, if the Russians invaded the United States I know I'd be joining a Patriots Militia, wouldn't you?

Probably, but unlike us, the Russians wouldn't have any ethical concerns about how to go about killing them.
They also don't care about casualties nearly as much.
They lost in Afghanistan because we funded the Islamists against them.

If course, ISIS does get funding from other sources ...

and they could save money on their lease payments ...


It's not "for some reason", idjit, it's to prevent them from being used as bases for American power (just like Cuba was a basis for Soviet power).

Everything going as planned. Syria can now provide Lebensraum for its aggressive neighbor.

Which one?! There are so many...

Oh noes! Syria is destroyed! Where will we get our..........I mean, they produce the world's only source of......well, how will we get...more refugees? Syria hasn't produced anything except belligerent rhetoric and semi-incompetent dictators in eighty years. Who cares what happens to that political entity? Same with Iraq, Lebanon and most of the rest of the non-major-oil-producing arab states. And for the remainder, all they produce is oil. It's not as if there's any redeeming cultural or economic factors at play. No one gives the slightest fig for the ME except as a source of oil or a source of foot soldiers to revamp the West.

Lebanon does seem to produce a fairly consistent crop of academics & businessmen.

Syria hasn’t produced anything except belligerent rhetoric and semi-incompetent dictators in eighty years.

No, fifty-odd years. The place did not career into ruin until after the advent of the Ba'ath Party in 1963.

Riight. The coups before that one had no impact on the country, nosirree. And Syria was such a wonderful place under the Turks and French.

Political instability was quite unremarkable in the 3d world at that time, including most of Latin America. Very few countries who suffered it then are in the straits that Syria is in today.

The straits that Syria is in today are squarely due to Turkey, the United States, Israel, and Jordan, Art.

The straits that Syria is in today are squarely due to Turkey, the United States, Israel, and Jordan, Art.

You've lost your mind or you've lost all shame. The straits that Syria is in are a consequence of their political evolution over more than 50 years.

Life is more fulfilling when you care about other peoples suffering.

I agree, to a very small point. I care about the suffering of my own family, friends and to a much lesser extent, countrymen. If I expended any further energy caring for those yet further afield, I'd be stretched pretty thin. There's just not much I can do for the Syrians, so not much point in being upset over it. Unless I were a narcissistic sociopath whose "empathy" was shallow lip service intended to enhance my status among the rest of the Western well-intentioned imbecile class. Then there might be a point, but it certainly wouldn't be the well-being of the Syrians.

High probability Syria ends up a lot like Lebanon. It will be another "frozen" conflict.

I think the world is trending towards a state in which there are a large number of such "frozen" conflicts around the world. This is because the world is dominated by a number of great powers who have a strong interest in keeping conflicts from escalating, but are ideologically prevented from doing much to resolve the underlying political disputes.
For example, the US cannot ethically (within our current ethical frame) choose between Sunnis and Shiites. We cannot choose Christians over Muslims. Nor can we force Muslims to choose secularism over religious theocracy. Attempting to inject a Western solution would further be seen as imperialism. But staying out of it while the two side fight it out would be seen as enabling genocide. So we end up negotiating ceasefires, but not peace treaties.

I think this is right, though the great powers are less important in the picutre than you make it seem. The various factions in Lebanon also have incentives not to escalate, but also to keep on being factional. Eventually Syrians will settle down to the something similar, (this presumes that ISIS and fellow travellers can be bottled up or destroyed.)

Another way to put it is that in 1500 years, there might not be an thing called America or France or Germany. But Syria will still be around. When bad things like Syria's recent history first show up in the archeological record, we call it the dawn of civilsation.

The difference is that today we have weapons that could enable any one faction to completely wipe out their adversaries forever. We (great powers) cannot allow that to happen. But they (the factions) all know that the possibility of total victory exists. (I'm not necessarily talking about chemical or nuclear weapons either. The Germans nearly wiped out the Jews and they didn't need nukes to do it.) So there is less incentive today for the factions to work out a lasting peace. It's like being in the middle of a chess match you really think you can win, and being told that it's a stalemate.

"(I’m not necessarily talking about chemical or nuclear weapons either. The Germans nearly wiped out the Jews and they didn’t need nukes to do it.)"

That's not really new technology. The Mongols depopulated large swaths of EurAsia back in their hey day.

Yeah, genocide doesn't require high technology--machetes and old ethnic hatreds will do the job just fine.

Rwanda proves your point. And the ethnic hatreds need not even be old - they can be based on largely fabricated ethnic identities and whipped up with the right (wrong) sort of media presence in very short time, as the case of Rwanda also proves.

They're not based on 'fabricated identities'. The distinction was present (and manifested in distinct agricultural systems each tribe adhered to) before Belgian officers ever set foot there. The Tutsi monarchies in Rwanda and Burundi are antique, dating back to 16th c. AD.

The civil war in Lebanon ended 25 years ago. Hezbollah remains a problem.

Technically it ended, but that hasn't stopped spates of sporadic violence or the threat of a return to civil war.
Lebanon has never really recovered either. Nobody goes there on vacation.

Nobody goes there on vacation.

I've never met this Mr. Nobody. The IMF offers an estimate that nominal gdp per capita at the end of the civil war was just north of 4% that of the United States. Now, they estimate it as being 22% that of the United States. Seems they've seen some improvement. The consequence of tourist revenue bounces around a great deal from year to year but seems at this time to account for around 13% of domestic product in a typical year. Someone's traveling there.

Ok, well, a few people do. But Lebanon used to be reputed as a rather liberal sea resort filled with night clubs and partying. I doubt many European tourists go there today due to the threat of kidnapping. They go to Dubai, which is a police state.

The World Bank is not publishing data on income levels in Lebanon from the era antedating the advent of the P.L.O therein. They do have data from a number of other countries.

In 1963, the most affluent countries in the Near East and adjacent ares terms of nominal per capita income, leaving aside petrostates, were Israel, Tunisia, and Turkey, in that order. The assessed income levels of the latter were 14% and 10% those of the United States. As we speak, there are a dozen countries in the Near East with a pci higher than Lebanon's. Eight of them are petrostates wherein national resource rents amount to between 30% and 60% of output. The other four are Israel, Cyprus, Bahrain, and Turkey (and Bahrain's a trade entrepot with large resource rents as well). Without consulting offline data, it's a reasonable wager that Lebanon's rank-order has hardly fallen. Both Israel and Turkey have an economic standing relative to the United States much improved from what it was in 1963, and, in terms of income levels, Lebanon's are more than 85% those of Turkey.

I'd guess one reason for most great powers' unwillingness to choose winners is that we mostly don't really care. How much do you personally care what kind of government Syria winds up with, or how it treats its religious minorities, once you're assured that whatever nastiness goes on there isn't going to spill over in some way that affects us?

Indeed, if not for ISIS, how much interest would anyone have in intervening in the first place? ISIS is like a giant public relations effort aimed at convincing us to pay attention to the Syrian civil war. If they were merely torturing their former neighbors to death for being the wrong religion or ethnicity, we'd deplore their excesses in the UN and otherwise ignore them.

That's not what I'm arguing. It's not that we don't "pick winners" it's that we explicitly pick and enforce a situation where neither side is allowed to "win". We'd be a lot better off if we just allowed Assad to be a ruthless dictator and crush his enemies. But that would be immoral, right? We'd probably be much better off if we allowed the Shiite militias in Iraq to wipe out the Sunnis in large swaths of territory.

This is a profound observation. South Sudan is today's perfect example of this phenomenon. Uncle Barack flew in and laid down the law to both sides... sign the peace agreement or else. Yet what is essentially an ethnic divide based conflict cannot reach its concluding denouement.

Come back to what? There are not many examples of a country which has made more of a hash of the opportunities it has had in the post-war period. North Korea, Burma, Iraq and a couple of failed states in Tropical Africa would be the only competitors.

Oh, nonsense. Syria did middling for an Arab country after 1960, and Libya did very well (though poorly for an oil state). Are you speaking of Yemen or Mauritania?

No, they did not. Syria was a fairly pluralistic commercial society in 1946. Not so now.

That's because the Alawites and Christians were emigrating or having 0-2 children for the Sunnis' 4-6. Or 12. The future belongs to those who show up.

"The future belongs to those who show up."
So true.

The term 'pluralistic' appears to be foreign to you.

The total fertility rate in Syria as estimated in 2010 was 3.0 per woman per child. The notion that a communal subset which has never been measured at less than 75% of the population has a total fertility rate of 5.0 per women per child is an interesting one. Of course, fertility rates were much higher in times past. However, prior to 1970, the Alawite population was abnormally poor and agrarian. The notion that they had depressed fertility rates is also interesting.

North Korea and Burma perhaps - and in each case that can be attributed to military dictatorship and the refusal of the West to trade with them for that very reason.

But in Iraq, so long as you didn't oppose Saddam, life was really not bad for most people in Iraq. It wasn't until the USA invaded on false pretexts and completely destroyed their existing political order that things got really bad in Iraq.

But in Iraq, so long as you didn’t oppose Saddam, life was really not bad for most people in Iraq.

You don't know what you're talking about. Read the contemporaneous assessments of Freedom House or even Human Rights Watch. More on your reading level would be the travelogue published in the New York Times Magazine around about 1985. One foreign diplomat in Baghdad told the reporter "I've never been in such a dreadful place".

Unless you think Iraq didn't invade Kuwait, the invasion wasn't under a false pretext.

Iraqi lives got much worse during the 1980s after a brief heyday in the 1970s before Saddam took over, and then got even worse in the 1990s under international sanctions until Bush liberated the country in 2003, after which GDP quintupled and political/economic rights reached their highest levels ever, right up until Obama botched the SOFA agreement and ceded the Sunni areas to ISIS, which is now shooting up Chattanaooga and openly trying to assassinate Pam Geller.

Only when the Great Satan will allow it.

Sure it will come back, it will be relocated to Europe.

We must lead from behind.....

I was there in 2005 and it was a pretty well functioning society. In the arab world (and majorty muslim countries generally) you look for two things: are women unveiled and in positions of societal prominence (tick) and are the rights of religious minorities clearly respected (tick - churches in every town with crosses prominently displayed and booze shops selling their wares in public). It was clearly a place where the authorities would take a keen interest were you to start criticising the government or threatening its power but otherwise people seem to be left to their own devices. Internet was freely available and uncensored. Little or no crime A genuinely friendly and welcoming place with some of the best tourist attractions on the planet. No doubt a bit on the repressive side for western tastes but no more than China. And for some reason the West decided to destabilise the Assad regime rather than support it and we now have at best, all this destroyed for the best part of a decade and extensive rebuilding. At worst we have permanently imported the worst type of ungovernable African hellhole into the cradle of civilisation. It's a tragedy but I suspect there is nothing we can do about it now unless we finally start to deal with the Iranians and Assads to sort the place out.

Exactly. There is an acute sense of betrayal held by Syrian Christians. They cannot believe their country is being ceded to the savages.

One of the best, and concise, comments on the subject I've ever read.

And for some reason the West decided to destabilise the Assad regime rather than support it and we now have at best,

It does not seem to occur to you that personalistic and patrimonial dictatorships might be brittle by their very nature.

A better visualization from Hans Rosling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_QrIapiNOw

Any admission or hint of acknowledgment that there could be limits to our glorious neo-liberal/neo-conservative vision? That history did not, in fact, end? That we do not actually make our own reality?

Better the devil you know? Gods of the Copybook Headings? White Man's Burden?

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