A Few Thoughts On Syria

It’s been a few days, so some of the more hyperbolic stuff surrounding the Tomahawk strike on Al Shayrat Airbase in Syria has started to die down.  Now might be the right time to weigh in with a few thoughts.  This should not be taken as an exhaustive analysis; I’m not in that business, and have slightly less of a finger on the pulse of these things than I did a couple years ago, when I was keeping a close eye on the jihadi groups cropping up in Syria.

As for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack that prompted the whole thing in the first place, the evidence points pretty strongly at the regime.  Bellingcat has extensive analysis of the attack here and here.  Long story short, the Russian cover story of an airstrike hitting a rebel warehouse where chemical weapons were stored doesn’t really hold up, especially where Sarin is concerned.  Most of the chemical weapons used in Syria so far, aside from the simpler ones like chlorine and mustard, have been binaries; the odds of an airstrike hitting a warehouse with the precursor chemicals in just the right way to cause a Sarin hit are pretty damned long.

As for why the regime might have used them, and why we responded the way we did, Brad Taylor lays it out better than I could, here.  Basically, both strikes were intended to send a message.  Behind all the hyperventilating and pontificating, I think it is fair to say that both messages were received by their intended recipients.

As for the reactions among the pundits and would-be pundits on the internet…well.  None of them really have a damned thing to do with reality.

I won’t even get into the “false flag” conspiracy theories being peddled by the “alt-right” and MSNBC both.  If you can’t tell that they’re completely retarded, I can’t help you.  And if you’re one of those with little working knowledge of the overall situation, but you know you don’t trust the media and the government, so you’re posting about how it doesn’t pass your “smell test,” just stop.  Stick your fingers in your ears and hum really loud until it’s over, but stop pontificating about stuff you know nothing about.  Your internet analysis based on no experience or study is worthless.

And if you’re essentially siding with the Russians against the US, nodding your head when the head of Russia Today (which is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Kremlin) says, “We had a chance, but now it’s fucked.  And not by us,” you’re essentially agreeing with the statement, “If you’d just stand aside and let us gas people, there’d be no problem.”

Because Russia is now run by the KGB.  Forget the propaganda, turn off RT, forget the simplistic either/or formula of “Russia or ISIS” that’s been peddled to justify cheering on Russian intervention in Syria.  Putin is on record himself as saying, “There is no such thing as an ex-Chekist.”  “Chekist” is an old term for “Secret Policeman,” going back to Feliks Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka.  Look up “Siloviki.”  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Need something quicker?  Read this.

The entire Kremlin is now effectively run by the state security services.  It may not be “The Soviet Union” anymore, but guess what?  The same people are running the show, even more than they used to.  There are four times as many FSB agents per Russian citizen than there were KGB agents per Soviet citizen in the ’80s.

The Russian character has not changed.  The idea that Russia is now the great champion of liberty and the West is ludicrous, and is coming from known Russian propaganda outlets.  Russia has never been a Western country, no matter how hard Peter the Great tried to make it one.  They have always viewed the West with suspicion at best.  And ultimately, you won’t find much internationalist sentiment in Russia.  Russia’s endgame is Russia, no more, no less.  Assad is an ally and a puppet in the Middle East.  He’s a useful tool.  That’s why Russia is supporting him, not because of ISIS.  Just go back and look through the reports of Russian airstrikes in Syria over the last year and a half.  The vast majority have been directed at Aleppo and Idlib, cities where ISIS simply isn’t.  Raqqah’s gotten a few bombs, but that’s it.

Which brings me to the “If you oppose the regime and Russia, you’re helping ISIS take over the Middle East!” hysteria.  Again.  Stop it.  This is not an either/or formula.  Consider the players in Syria.  Assad and his Baath party (yes, the regime is Baathist), along with the Iranians by way of the IRGC, and the KGB (the Russians, sure, but as pointed out above, it’s essentially the same thing), versus a pack of Sunni jihadists being largely backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia (though that won’t be in the news often anymore).  Tell me, where do you see the “good guys” in that equation?  I’ll answer you: you don’t.  Because there effectively aren’t any.  This isn’t Hollywood.

As for ISIS, stop listening to their damned propaganda.  They took Mosul in 2014 because the majority Shi’a division holding the city didn’t want to fight for a Sunni city.  They’ve pissed off every single other Sunni Salafist group fighting in Syria going back to 2013, because they’ve sat in the rear areas in the east, talking shit and cutting people’s heads off, while the other groups they claim to command have been fighting and bleeding against the regime in the west.  They’re steadily losing ground in Iraq, and have been for two years now.  They are not the Caliphate they want to be.  What they are is a bunch of bloodthirsty psychos and high-functioning retards who have been getting their rocks off publicizing every act of brutality they can come up with, glad to be the object of everyone’s fear.

The lessons to be taken away from this are that sometimes things really are what they appear to be.  Not everything is some kind of gnostic conspiracy.  Do the digging before you open your mouth or start banging on your keyboard.

And just because some of your own people aren’t trustworthy, doesn’t mean those actively working against American interests magically are.

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4 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On Syria

  1. Is there a quick rundown or a good link you can provide as to how the gas attack isn’t a false flag? You’re the first source I trust to definitively say it isn’t and I’m willing to listen and reconsider.

    1. Read the Bellingcat links I linked to above, as well as Brad Taylor’s post, he has even more.

      Seriously, this “false flag” stuff is out of control. Anything bad happens, immediately there are dozens of voices screaming about “false flags” without any evidence or even first- or second-hand knowledge of the situation. As Brad said, this is Occam’s Razor, and this is a situation where THERE ARE NO GOOD GUYS. Just because RT says that Assad is just being set up by the rebels, does not make it true.

  2. Alex Shishkin

    Sounds like a pretty solid analysis to me. One minor nit, totally irrelevant to the situation as it is.

    USSR was NOT ruled by its secret services. Not even in the time of Stalin’s purges, mush less later. In fact, for the most part of its 75 year long history, it kept its secret services under pretty tight control by the Communist Party apparatus.

    Modern Russia, OTOH, is exactly as you have described. Which is why, IMO, its current system is not going to last nearly as long as USSR did. And today’s Russian secret services are not exactly what they used to be in the Soviet time, either. They were a lot more competent in their stated purposes then – precisely because they were not in total control of the country. Today’s ‘Chekists’ are somewhat of a cross between the old time secret policemen and a Latin America banana republic’s goon squad.

    Having grown up and lived in the USSR until I was 30, I have a basis for the ‘then and now’ comparisons. Generally, modern-day Russia is a lot less capable across the board, and not proportionally to the shrinkage of the country’s area and population since the USSR’s demise. The education system has gone to shit. Manufacturing, including in the critical areas related to weapons’ manufacturing, has been allowed to degrade into a pitiful state. The people I see representing Russia in official capacity, are generally of a caliber that in the Soviet times would not have been allowed to rise nearly to such a level.

    Generally, the country seems to be ruled more like some foreign power’s protectorate under a puppet regime, than like an independent nation. No, I am not saying Russia really is somebody’s protectorate these days; merely that people in charge there treat their own country as such.

    Anyway, like I said: its mostly off topic. But when analyzing any actions by the Russian leadership it pays to realize that the current Russian leadership, while bearing many similarities to the Soviet one, is also different in many key respects. In some ways it’s actually better for the rest of the world – because it’s a lot weaker and has no chances of ever becoming as strong as the Soviet one ever was. In other ways it’s a lot worse – because, where Soviet leadership had certain limits imposed by its ideology, this one consists of utterly un-ideological shits with absolutely no checks and limits of any kind other than a credible threat of outside force.

  3. Great Analysis.

    No one in the media gets that we are fighting for several groups who would be considered mortal enemies on any other battlefield. Also no one wants to have a discussion based on what the desired outcomes might be because we are involved in fighting a proxy war that is currently raging between the Sunnis and Shia, it is also being fought in Iraq, Yemen and North Africa.

    The only additional equation I would add to your analysis is the desire by both Iran and Saudi is to have a natural gas pipeline that flows to Europe. I agree that this is a religious was but it also have its basis set in money. And as usual, we are the lapdogs to the nations with all the oil.

    Thank you for your service over there.

    rob

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