Tuesday 10 September 2013

Or else...

Two short words often used by parents to children.  They don’t often work – the rebellious will ask “or else what?”,  whilst the even more rebellious will carry on and see whether any sanction is forthcoming or not.  Unless accompanied by a clear statement of the consequences – and a firm belief in the mind of the target audience that those sanctions will actually be imposed – it’s something of an empty threat.  Bluster and bluff.
Nor is that analysis is restricted to parents and children, as Obama, Cameron and others have discovered in relation to Syria.  Admittedly they face the not insignificant added complication of establishing beyond doubt that the miscreant is who they say it is; and given the past record of the UK and US governments in such matters, there will be some who will never believe even the apparently most incontrovertible evidence.
The lack of clarity about how to respond when their bluff was called merely underlines the extent to which the “or else” was indeed mostly bluff in the first place – it’s as though they believed that that the mere threat to do “something” would be enough of a deterrent in itself.
That isn’t the end of the confusion however – there also seem to be several elements of moral confusion involved in their thinking at present.
Horrific though chemical weapons are, and outlawed as they are under international law, the method by which Syrians are being killed daily is surely secondary to the fact that they’re being killed – from their point of view at the very least.  There is a real danger that the US, UK, and others are telling Syria that killing people on a large-scale is fine with the international community, as long as they use the “right” weapons to do it.
Further, the outrage at the use of chemical weapons is coming from people who themselves own, and want the rest of the world to believe that they would in certain circumstances use, weapons of mass destruction.  It’s not a particularly high ground on which to stand and moralise.
Outrage at the use of chemical weapons is understandable, and the desire to “punish” Assad for their use is also relatively easy to understand.  But in which way precisely does killing Syrian soldiers, and the inevitable civilian casualties which even the most precise “surgical” strike would kill, actually punish Assad?  As in all wars, those who suffer most are those at the bottom of the pile, not those at the top.
Then we have the US military elements who are apparently looking for ways to damage the Assad regime a little but not so much as to help the rebels win, given the influence of Al Qaeda in their ranks.  This is a recipe, if ever there was one, for prolonging the slaughter not ending it.
The inability of the international community to respond effectively to events in Syria is frustrating; the UN seems to be impotent.  The breach of international protocols in the use of chemical weapons is clearly unacceptable.
But the most unacceptable aspect of all is the daily slaughter which is taking place in the country, and none of those demanding “action” has given an adequate explanation to date as to how the “action” they propose will actually stop that slaughter, rather than simply add to it.


Anonymous said...

What sanctions/actions should be taken against those countries who supply the chemicals to produce those weapons?

John Dixon said...

A good question - but who would impose the sanctions? Wouldn't that have to be the governments who probably see the companies producing the chemicals as providers of jobs and GDP? Morality can be a very flexible concept to some.

Spirit of BME said...

Whilst what is happening in Syria is disturbing, it is not straight forward in that the good guys are wearing white hats and the bad wearing black hats.
So, what is really dangerous is what happened on these shores where there has been little comment.
Little “Spliff” Cameron asked the English Parliament to vote on going to war – what is he on now!!!???
Unlike the US where there is War Powers Act, the Commons is not designed to do this, as its members are there to legislate and not to conduct war, that is the prerogative of the State where the Head of State who is also the Commander in Chief and Ministers of the Crown conduct foreign policy and Parliament provides the cash. The one sanction the Commons has is a vote of no confidence – there were two in the last little unpleasantness with Germany and one bought the HMG down.
Asking MP`S (who are here today, gone tomorrow) to be Generals for a day, plus the cocktail of short term political gain (either way) is very, very dangerous.