Syria: intervention update

The New York Times reports on what US bombs have done to regular civilians in Syria since airstrikes began this summer:

many people are angry at the Americans. Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.

For all their violence and intolerance toward disbelievers, the fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at least functioned as a government, providing basic services and some semblance of stability.

“People don’t want some outside power to attack,” Khalid Farhan, a Raqqa resident, said during a recent trip to Turkey.

Syrian civilians now see not that ISIS was a noble organization but that by contrast, American airstrikes have left them completely destabilized.

It was not that the militants were popular in Raqqa, according to nearly a dozen residents, who spoke in interviews in the city or across the border in Turkey. Rather, the Islamic State had become an indispensable service provider.

As a result, “People have started to regard the airstrikes suspiciously, or they sympathize with ISIS,” Mr. Hassan said.

Ordinary Syrians had begun to “intertwine” with the militant group, but American airstrikes are killing indiscriminately, picking off ISIS fighters but also, as the Times reports, “10 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike on Sunday that hit one of the oil facilities run by the Islamic State, where many people had found work.”

The result is destabilization, a weakened province struggling to survive:

“The Americans are destroying our infrastructure,” he said. “It is hard for the Islamic State to supply, fix and maintain the electricity networks in Raqqa province while the American warplanes and rockets attack any position, anytime,” he said.

Electricity was available for only six hours on some days, and the price of cooking gas had tripled, said Yasser Awad, 40, a house painter. He said that he wanted to move his family out of Syria, but could not afford to.

“We just want someone who will bring justice, stability and safety,” Mr. Awad said. “God knows who that is.”

Another reason moderate(¹) Syrians are dying thanks to US airstrikes:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is taking advantage of the U.S.-led coalition’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to pursue a withering air and ground campaign against more mainstream rebels elsewhere in the country, trying to recapture areas considered more crucial to the survival of his government.

This airstrike campaign is only a few months old (though the US has been involved by way of weapons for years), but Syrians could be lucky if this is the worst of it. In Iraq, the Army chief of staff has threatened that the US-assisted war on ISIS will be  “a three- to four-year effort.”

That the US would leave a country in ruins, with its civilians angry about an “outside power” attacking, is sadly predictable, no matter the humanitarian rhetoric US officials use when they launch these types of interventions. When condemning the argument that leftists didn’t care about Syria because they opposed intervention, I couldn’t have known exactly how things would play out, but that US bombs would destabilize the country instead of bringing peace was clear — because that’s what US interventions do. Just last month, I wrote, “Obama knew he was destabilizing Syria, and he did it anyway,” where I quoted Moon of Alabama suggesting just that:

Or the plan was never to win. If the aim was and is the “destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria” then arming all kinds of insurgents was and is a sane and successful policy.

In order to stop public support for US interventions, there have to be professional consequences for those who advocate them. As Malcolm Harris warned: “Don’t listen to media hawks about the Islamic State.”

When it comes to the U.S. war machine, knee-jerk doves know some things reluctant hawks never will, principally that the use of force is almost never worth the long-term costs and the government typically lies to justify it. But Keller’s liberal media cabal can’t forget this fast enough. Nuance shouldn’t be a shield for hacks, and the tree of credibility must be refreshed from time to time with the resignations of fools. It’s not as though we’re short on replacements: Keller and his ilk are less qualified to opine on U.S. military intervention than approximately 36 million people who clogged the world’s streets to protest our invasion of Iraq. I don’t have the answer to U.S. involvement in the Middle East, but I think we’d all be a lot better off if the warmongers who were wrong last time found something else to do or were flatly ignored.

He argues that anyone who supported the Iraq War shouldn’t be allowed to have their say this time. I think we have a few more demonstrably immoral interventions to add to that list.

2 thoughts on “Syria: intervention update”

  1. A minor point but want to push back against your use of “moderate” in talking about Assad’s targets. I can’t really put it any better than this writer does – – but the idea that there are some good guys out there that Assad is targeting is more imperial fiction.

    Of course, Assad does tend to catch a lot of innocent civilians in his net when he goes after these guys, but at a rate no higher than his opposition and causing probably much less death and destruction than would result from a regime change scenario.


  2. Good point Walter, and thanks for pushing back. I agree — “moderates” is inapt and not what I meant, but for some reason I kept it anyway. I first typed “Another reason non-members of ISIS are dying thanks to US airstrikes…” but that seemed awkward. Thanks for the article. Nice bit here speaking to the Inept Empire theory:

    “Contrary to popular belief, the United States does not stumble blindly and hopelessly through the Middle East. It stands to reason that there is an important motive behind choosing to back the non-ISIS Syrian opposition, rather than tacitly supporting the Assad regime, to counter ISIS.”

    I agree with your broader point too, that we should combat the idea that there are good guys Assad is targeting. I’d have a hard time believing the US would be arming them if they were as moderate as advertised.


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