Author Archive for patrickm

Ending Baathism in Syria requires a major war

Ending Baathism in Syria requires a major war.

Syria has a population of 22million that is massively divided along religious and ethnic lines (10% Kurds). It has a Baathist tyranny better supported among that population than was Gadaffi who had considerable support and so a big war is in the very early stages of developing. The tyranny is very well armed and trained, and has ‘undegraded’ command and control, with massive numbers of police thugs, spies, and so forth. So, this will take some time and will involve Turkey for sure. Turkey is being quite open about being the regional power that will act if it must, and the Kurdish issue and PKK is clearly central to this.

Syria also has had a national conscription system that now leaves a great legacy of trained men who are now willing and partly able to take on the lawful tyranny in a civil war. Both sides have just observed what happened over 9mths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt etc., in this year of continuous spring. So soldiers who are thinking about mutiny will be encouraged as the situation develops and the core forces of repression will be somewhat shaken by the visions they have just been witness to.

Fortunately for the masses of people in revolt, the Islamic cultural reality of Friday prayers and mass gatherings throughout the country to mobilize around, and the egged on or ‘shame’ factor of not being left behind when others have been brave and fought and grabbed their freedom ought not be underestimated. Confidence really ought to be up on the side of the revolution and down a bit at least among the tyranny despite its large support and vast quantities of military assets. Large scale mutiny is the most hopeful start to the next stage of ridding Syria of Baathists, but from at least the Turkish side, I can’t see how this fight can be left alone to develop as a ‘pure’ civil war for very much longer.

As I see this the Syrian army becomes muscle bound very quickly in most of the larger cities that have had the big demonstrations against Assad, and is quickly exhausted in the smaller towns especially near all the borders, and no doubt along the Euphrates river and Nth. East of that line. They are effectively an army of occupation and can obviously be spread too thin trying to hold everything so they currently are running around trying to appear to be everywhere. But spying and the in and out arresting duties of the secret police and so forth is the only way this regime can even continue to exist in huge parts of the country.

The young fighting men can and will be pissed off and fight back, as well as leave and cross the border into Turkey as we have seen in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They will be greeted by the soldiers that have deserted and are already there as a determined rebellious armed force planning for either a long war, or rapid growth if the situation changes. This force will in the face of almost weekly reports of mass slaughter start to mount reply attacks deliberately to gain greater recognition and further stimulate recruitment. They are not refugees but a fighting force already trained and intent on overthrowing the people that they have fled from and who are still systematically killing their friends and family members, so they will find ways to fight right now and that keeps some of this fighting near the Turkish border.

The Turks are already permitting the establishment of an insurgent force and the Syrian tyranny can’t hit across the border as the Turks would respond immediately and massively. Turkey will remain the most important country able to impose the military action (similar to the NATO effort in Libya) and no other country has the stomach for this IMV. Turkey’s leadership has a vital interest identified and seems determined to advance its democratic reform program within Turkey that requires dealing with Kurdish liberation issues, and simultaneously with the current PKK that has been and still are hosted in all the neighbours.

Turkey has no territorial ambitions but regularly has crossed its borders and beat up on the PKK and is still doing so right now so it looks like the perfect storm for a war to develop.

The Syrian tyranny is continuing to systematically murder the Syrian people and can’t stop this brutality. They can’t undo the way they rule with terror police as the core to their control across a vast part of the country. They can only now exist by holding guns over the people of very many towns and villages and cities of Syria. The Syrian army is now an army of occupation that fears intervention from the far larger Turkey. The army has too much to do and is rotting so it has no prospect of stopping the small fights and the constant flight that the activities of the secret police etc., ensure will continue. Eventually it will be unable to patrol near the border for fear of hit and run, then hit and advance attacks that will be mounted near population centres. They will not be able to use air power against the freedom fighters.

No doubt if war breaks out the western international community would turn a blind eye and hope for the end of the Assad regime as one aspect of the outcomes that in some cases would happen in days of a mass Turkish incursion. The Turkish armed forces would not have to liberate large Syrian population centers, all they have to do is prevent the Syrian forces from surrounding and suppressing the people they are currently intimidating near the Turkish border and then allowing the rebel force that they currently protect in Turkish territory to return and be protected in very much larger form in Syrian territory. They would then hand over all the arms required by the new Syrian regime that they recognize and try to continue to take steps back over time as the Syrian civil war is fought. Seems straight forward but wars don’t work to plan, let alone time-tables, and other sides usually have a bit to say. What we have here in abundance is other sides.

But though I feel sure that a large war is coming and how it gets going won’t matter much this is too complex for me to get a handle on. What follows from the current suppression of the Syrian masses by the Baathists is that a war of liberation must breakout if democracy is part of the demands that are thrown on the table. These demands are on the table and Turkey must comply with the international body that approves of the end of the war. The UN determines when the end is and the new government is given the UN seat. Given that 3,000 are already dead and lots more are disappeared the war is going in one sense already.

Once Turkey gets involved then the NFZ and or destruction of the Syrian air forces in a big war comes up and NATO naval forces would also get drawn in with blockade work and U.S. spy assets etc.. The Syrian army would be rapidly isolated in large areas of Syria and then systematically destroyed if it lacks air power. If this war were to eventuate Turkey is bound to follow through and cut up the army that is spread too thin trying to hold down large population centres. That will end the period of secret police activities and see heavy arms rapidly distributed to the population that is more than willing to put them to use. That is I suppose the ideal first stage for putting a stop to the way the Baathists run Syria.

The Baathists can now enter population centers unopposed, but provided the opposition run around and avoid much fighting they can’t stay and comfortably regain control everywhere at once. Neither can they do what the Russians have done in Grozny because that will bring on the required intervention. If they can’t use heavy weapons and can’t avoid continuous small arms skirmishing then they will over time be driven from the bigger cities that are in revolt. The soldiers cant stay in their tanks and can’t avoid snipers and so the insurgents will be able to organise and grow. IMV Turkey wants to intervene and will intervene if the Baathists use air power, or they start to use the heavy weapons.

Without air power the Syrian army eventually won’t be able to enter some of the larger cities without being defeated because the supply of anti-tank weapons etc., will flood in from Turkey with the blessing of the whole world. Then the civil war will unfold and finally ought to draw in the U.S. from the Mediterranean. NATO ought to be redeploying from the Libyan theatre now. There will be much work for the A10′s.

I can’t see a ‘cheaper’ way of ending the Syrian Baathist tyranny as they are far too strong at the moment, just like the Libyan tyranny was before they were seen to be about to defeat the rebels in Benghazi and the intervention was launched. That was when I hoped for Egyptian intervention. It would have sped the liberation that has now come to Libya even without that intervention and with all the costs to the libyan people.

9/11, ten years on: how the arab spring is rebirthing a genuine left

Old Yobbo said:

‘Come to think of it, yes, the situation isn’t that different from Saddam’s Iraq, just on a more compressed time-frame. Which, if anything, makes me a bit more disposed towards the US invasion of Iraq (Christ, I never thought I would ever think that) …..’
http://larvatusprodeo.net/2011/03/12/libya-the-left-and-the-no-fly-zone-debate/#comment-267941

September 11th 2011 ought to focus left-wing minds on what has become of the internationalist left, that ten years ago stood gob-smacked with everyone else, as humanity watched the unimaginable horror of those attacks.

Naturally all the old categories of leftists are still around and plenty of the recognized leaders too, but via the twists and turns of the intervening years those that started as self declared leftists and internationalists have reached a destination that is, as is usual for all political journeys, places that none of us really set out for. The numbers have dramatically changed after all that experience and it’s worth looking at the how, the why and the what of it.

Early in 2011 a small number of leftists joined in the call for the U.S. and the rest to impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) on the Libyan tyranny, with the clear understanding that this meant starting with bombing. Most of these leftists then went quiet when it was blindingly obvious that NATO was not imposing a NFZ on the basis of any doctrine of the responsibility to protect, (R2P) but rather acting as the artillery (that conquers) for the Libyan revolutionaries who would occupy. This is a huge leap forward from a decade ago. These leftists in their silence were advocating war. They were only hiding behind R2P, and the pseudo-left didn’t hesitate to point this out. Those that went silent as the war was fought and won wanted more than just the democratic revolutionaries protected against their heavily armed tyrannical opponent. They wanted results. They wanted victory for the rebels across the entire country.

The previous decade ending at 9/11 was one of obvious collapse for the left and that requires no discussion here. But IMV a significant genuine left is now capable of arising from the fresh shoots now emerging from this last decade.

Going back to late 2002 we said that the US had altered their policy by 180 degrees from supporting dictatorship in the Mjddle East to supporting democracy in the Middle East.

The following six sub-periods provide some structure as to how peoples thinking has changed over those past 10years:

2001-2003: 9/11 atrocity; US invades Afghanistan; Iraq invasion / liberation.
This represented a disaster for the realists who wanted to maintain stability in the Middle East. This was the end of business as usual. The invasion and liberation of Iraq from the fascist minority Sunni based Baathists was an indirect but strategically vital response to the 9/11 attack. This response surprised Al Quaeda.

2003- 2005: US policy has good and bad features but three elections demonstrate their policy of supporting democracy

2005- 2007: The going gets tough.

2007- 2009: Bush initiates The Surge. Iraq proceeds to a normal election cycle

2009- 2010: Elections result in a delayed formation of an Iraqi Proportional Representation government

2011: The glorious Arab Spring breaks out

Incidentally, I also think that nothing potent remains of the former completely dominant political thinking of the U.S. ruling establishment from 2001. Realist policies of maintaining the status quo of autocracies are effectively dead in 2011, and for those that carry on as the zombies of that defeated school of thinking there is essentially nowhere in the ME to deploy their policy prescriptions. Anyway only governments do things and oppositions of all descriptions are free to talk and offer opinions that like assholes are common to all but no future U.S. government can revert to the old policies.

Support for the ending of the Libyan tyranny was widespread across the spectrum of what is known as the left but opposition to any ‘imperialist’ intervention was also almost exclusively to be found in this milieu as well, so a great debate was had this year and the pseudo-left was one issue that received great ventilation. Those who are stuck in the old ‘hard left’ paradigm that imperialism is the main enemy actually stand for all things conservative when it comes to ridding the ME of tyranny. They have been wonderfully exposed as useless dogmatists throughout this year of the Arab Spring and once more on the wrong side of a fire fight with the tyrants. Who is the main enemy then? All those who oppose the democratic revolution in the autocratic regimes.

The forces that had been involved in the anti-war movement in relation to the looming war in Iraq back in 2002 essentially divided in the lead-up to the war that is now concluding in Libya. My view is that at least 2 out of 3 and possibly 3 out of 4 supported action over Libya or went silent and took no stand or are now on reflection glad it happened. This group wanted western governments to do something to save the imperiled democratic revolution rather than allow Gaddafi to crush it with his superior firepower. I guess the figure for Iraq was more like 5%

But the action in the lead-up period was framed in a manner that sounded very different to just taking sides in a civil war. The reality was taking sides in a civil war. The reality was unity with western bourgeois governments who could supply the effective ‘artillery’.

Concerning the western imposition of a NFZ and other measures under the rubric of an international responsibility to protect civilians (R2P), before the actual war was launched, Guy Rundle said:

“All that matters is whether the request comes from legitimate leadership, is strategically viable, and can be limited in scope. Those conditions appear to have been met.”

What a joke. The rebels were being defeated by the tyranny until they united with various western governments and war was declared on the tyranny! There was never only a NFZ and R2P civilians ‘limited scope’ and the appearance of one was created as a deliberate lie to conceal the war fighting scope of the intervention.  Guy Rundle was happy to be lied to.

The Libyan tyranny has now been all but ended with the two last towns hopefully surrendering to the rebels this very weekend. The Rebel leadership is clearly going to hold the elections that it has sought and promised

Well, those same factors have been met in the case of ending the Iraq tyranny! The Coalition Of the Willing (COW) is going home and leaving behind a democratically elected government. Eight years is all it took to smash the reactionary heart of the ME and set the region wide revolution running.

UN Declares War on Gaddafi

The UN Security Council has approved a “no fly zone” over Libya and more importantly authorizing “all necessary measure” (ie. direct attacks against Gaddafi’s forces) to protect civilians, by a vote of 10 in favour with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation). The resolution excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”

NB. This morning France stated that the resolution did not rule out an invasion by foreign troops. An invasion is not the same as an occupation. (20/3/2011 10:57 pm clarification by BK: This was heard on the radio in the early hours but I have been unable to confirm it through googling. It is true however that the resolution does allow for attacks on Gaddafi’s ground troops and that operations by foot soldiers are also not specifically ruled out)

The UN delegates referred repeatedly to the Arab League’s call for a no fly zone.

Speaking before the vote, Alain Juppe, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said the world was experiencing “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history”, as people throughout North Africa and the Middle East were calling for “a breath of fresh air”, for freedom of expression and democracy.  Such calls for democratic transition had echoed thro­ugh Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.  Everyone had witnessed the events with great hope and he believed “this new Arab springtime is good news for all”.  The changes required the international community not to “give lessons”, but to help the people of those countries build a new future.

FOREIGN INTERVENTION PROGRESSIVE and ESSENTIAL

Libya is a largely urban country with 85% of pe­ople living in its two large and about twenty smaller cities and towns. The democratic rebels have control of the eastern towns and the second largest city Benghazi as well as substantially unarmed but very widespread support in the west. They currently have, compared to the undemocratic Gaddafi forces, a reasonably small, badly organized and poorly trained army with virtually no ‘airforce’ and only tiny naval forces that exist under the protection of western navies.

Without foreign intervention Gaddafi can’t be dealt with in anything like a timely manner. He would win in the short term. His army will however be routed once his air power, tanks and armoured vehicles are denied to him.

Gaddafi has already lost Libya. He can only hold Tripoli and the highway east only so far (he can’t for example ever again send his forces to the Egyptian border) and he can not hold that territory that he does indefinitely. Eventually, he won’t be able to hold the outlying eastern end and a more or less rapid withdrawal west will unfold. Everyone interested in this would already have read up on the WW2 forward and backward fighting. Gaddafi understands this perfectly well.

Continue reading ‘UN Declares War on Gaddafi’

Zombies march on Gaza

A few day’s ago, Arthur posted the following comment in the old Marwan Barghouti thread.  I’m reposting it here, followed by my own thoughts about current events in Gaza.

Arthur’s comment:

This topic seems a good reminder about the hazards of prediction in commenting on the latest Israeli outrage.

Not having been following events recently, let alone expected the latest, its difficult to be confident in analysing what’s going on.

But for what it’s worth, the parallels with both the previous murderous assault on Lebanon and Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Hanoi, again strike me as eerie.

As was obvious at the time, though hardly noticed, the main point of killing a thousand or so Lebanese was to establish a clear understanding among all but the looniest sections of Israeli opinion, of the fact that it’s pointless, that the old policies have failed and they will have to back off generally.

Continue reading ‘Zombies march on Gaza’

Marwan Barghouti: 25th August!

Marwan Barghouti  It appears that Abbas has ‘won’ the release of the first group of ‘important’ prisoners/hostages (150 or more). We can now predict that in a few weeks time Hamas will get another 300-400 released (less prominent hostages) in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, or some such arangement.

Continue reading ‘Marwan Barghouti: 25th August!’

Zimbabwe reflections

A recent debate at Larvatus Prodeo brought to mind the exposure of Lemingist sects in The Life of Brian: “What did the Romans ever do for us?” The enlarging mirror at LP took the form of a well mannered pseudo-leftist, articulately holding to a consistently reactionary position with regard to Zimbabwe. Basically this fellow (John Tracey) supports Mugabe. The LP bloggers took him to task. But did they actually see their own features in that mirror?

‘No Mark, the developed nations standard of living is obscene and the root cause of African poverty.’ Oh dear.

When John Tracey didn’t stun people into silence he often forced them into distorting his position because much of what he bases his views on is what they themselves have argued for on LP. ( ie support for ‘small is beautiful’ right-wing green policies such as Perma-culture, rather than modern industrialized farming; defence of reactionary sovereignty rather than a developing internationalism; promoting ‘cultural exceptional-ism’ rather than being unequivocally in favour of universal human rights)

But on the issue of Zimbabwe, the regular bloggers at LP cannot stoop so low as to abandon the people of Zimbabwe and their struggle for democracy (nothing more than bourgeois democracy). In the crystallized situation that we see in Zimbabwe, LP regulars have chosen the correct side. They want the tyranny there to be brought to an end.Theoretically, John Tracey must also oppose tyranny, however his blinkered incapacity to see any progressive features in the bourgeois revolution that is required at this time and place puts him objectively on the side of a tyrant. Continue reading ‘Zimbabwe reflections’

“So, how goes the war for Greater Israel?”

It seems clear that Bush and Rice are serious about trying to get an end to the war for greater Israel this year, but weakness on the part of Olmert and the Israeli Government is slowing the process up. It’s against the Israeli interest, as identified by Olmert, to not make a peace agreement with the Palestinians and he is now pushing forward with Syria and the ‘minor’ issues with Lebanon.

So what if anything is delaying things?Given how little I know about the inner workings of the Israeli ruling elite, I don’t know. However I would venture that the numbers in the Knesset, rather than the corruption scandal around Olmert, is the problem.  In short the Israelis are having real problems getting the deal done.

Rice is arriving this weekend to have separate meetings with Barak, Livni and Olmert so the pressure is still right on, but with the weakened state of the U.S. as the lastsuperpower, there is no certainty they will get their way this year, Nevertheless there is still a chance.

An interesting development at the moment is Olmert’s attitude to releasing Barghouti amid the increasing loudness of demands to do just that.  He commented publicly that he didn’t think it was a good idea at this stage:

“Imagine that Barghouti is released tomorrow. Is there a way for him to prove that he’s not a collaborator with the Israelis? There’s only one way: to be more extreme than the present leadership.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3972599.ece

So what are the issues that are unfolding? Continue reading ‘“So, how goes the war for Greater Israel?”’