Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

As of this writing, the top headlines of the New York Times, NBC and the BBC are all spotlighted on Syria and how President Obama will proceed concerning the troubled nation. Astute and retentive readers will perhaps remember that my opening salvo for Wondergressive focused on the looming specter of Western intervention in the troubled nation. It now appears that this short-sighted interference is imminent and probably unstoppable, despite public antipathy. According to an August 26 Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 9% of Americans support Washington intervening in Syria.

The calls for action intensified after an alleged chemical weapon attack outside of Damascus last week that reportedly killed up to 1,300 people. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to the BBC on the President’s stance:

We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take…[Obama] has seen [all options and contingencies]. We are prepared. We are ready to go.

Syrian National Coalition official Ahmad Ramadan spoke on the pressing urgency of the West’s response to the strife in Syria:

There is no precise timing … but one can speak of an imminent international intervention against the regime. It’s a question of days and not weeks.

Here’s a snippet from my inaugural post in January, which still perfectly sums up my view on a Syrian intervention:

Much like Mugatu, I feel like I’ve been taking Crazy Pills watching this slow entrenchment into a state of permanent war. How is it possible that the US, helmed by equally bloodlust-y Democrats and Republicans, remains utterly incapable of learning from the abundant mistakes of our past?

It’s not as if one has to Indiana Jones these lessons of history from some hidden crypt. The US/UK led coup in Iran in 1953, which re-established the Shah to power, did not prevent the violence and reactionary backlash in that nation, but rather directly contributed to it. The Vietnam War was a prolonged, hellishly painful, and ultimately pointless disaster. The overthrow of the Taliban and installment of President Karzai in Afghanistan has not yielded the stable government we wished to create. Iraq remains a mess nearly a decade after our intervention. The US has sent military forces to central Africa to stabilize threats of terror in that continent, which will likely be just as fruitless.

Despite these recent foreign policy failures, governments still seem prepared and willing to intervene in Syria.

And yet intervene we should and shall!

Related Article: Clouds of Western Intervention Loom Over Syria

Dexter Filkins’ article in The New Yorker sums up the pro-interference mindset, not just for Syria but also for Iraq II and for nearly every other conflict in recent memory, in his very first sentence: “This time it’s different.”

My sarcastic and mocking rejoinder: “This time is always different. It’s last time that’s always the same.”

Filkins concludes:

What can America do? It’s not unreasonable to ask whether even a well-intentioned American effort to save Syrians might fail, or whether such an effort might pull America into a terrible quagmire…But how much longer are we going to allow those questions to prevent us from trying?

In other words, the US should continue to ignore its horrible record of Middle Eastern intervention altogether, despite acknowledging that it might further embroil America into a fetid and futile marsh of violence and occupation.

I understand the horrors of the Assad regime and lament the lives of the estimated 100,000 that have been killed so far. I acknowledge how terrifying and terrorizing the alleged use of chemicals weapons is for citizens there. However, I also acknowledge the historical reality that the West’s interfering might not only be ineffective in ending violence, but I also understand that in all likelihood an intervention will actively increase instability and promote political conflicts.

Chaos-in-SyriaBy arming rebel groups or by striking with cruise missiles to destabilize the Assad regime, Obama will be traveling on a well-trod, dangerous and predictable road. The ramifications of pursuing the role of Team America: World Police will likely create further discord within Syria. One does not have to look far back in history to see manifest examples of this.

After US and British forces bombed Libya to oust Gaddafi, various groups struggled for control of the government. US Ambassador Christopher Stevens wrote in his diary about the growing influence and threat of al-Qaeda in the region. He and three other diplomats were killed in the September 11, 2012 attacks on the Benghazi consulate. Unrest in Libya continues unabated.

After the 2011 Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown this July in a coup only a year after his inauguration. Violent protests between Morsi supporters and the anti-Morsi military have resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 in two days of fighting in August alone. And yet the US continues to send billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, including 4 F-16 fighter jets, despite the country’s lack of stability and a decidedly uncertain future.

Even when countries intervene under the best of intentions it fails catastrophically. Famously in the First Gulf War, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1990 after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Among other things, these measures denied Iraqi access to medical equipment and expertise, including supplies as basic as painkilling medication. As a result, an estimated 500,000 children died in the ’90s, unable to receive care refused to them by “well-intentioned” overlords at the UN.

Sickeningly, here is Madeline Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN and future Secretary of State under Clinton, defending this massive loss of life on CBS’ 60 Minutes, declaring that this horrendous loss of life was “worth it.”

Despite these crystal clear and relevant examples—all remarkably recent events—the US, UK and French governments seemed imminently poised to pursue yet another “peace-keeping” venture in the Middle East.

The West may be poised to support some some seriously shady characters within the rebel camp. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) represents a large subset of the anti-Assad factions. The SNC supports an organization called al-Nusra Front, which has been called “the most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force.” The group is also a self-acknowledged wing of al-Qaeda and has admitted to having ties to extremist groups in Iraq. The US itself considers the group to be a terrorist organization, but has been urged by the SNC to not take action against al-Nusra, or any other group that aims to topple the Assad regime.

What could possibly go wrong when Washington aids and arms groups based on expediting immediate goals rather than focusing on long-term strategy?

Oh, right……that guy.

Dexter Filkins’ piece in The New Yorker argues that America needs to exert its might in Syria in an attempt to quell violence there. He does this despite recognizing that our track history in that regard is woeful at best, and that further Middle Eastern intervention could likely mire our military in yet another diplomatic swamp.

I have a much more simple suggestion concerning the West’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. History tells us that we shouldn’t do it. The American people tell us that they want no part of it.

So, just don’t do it.

 

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/26/new-poll-syria-intervention-even-less-popular-than-congress/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/10/clouds-of-western-intervention-loom-over-syria/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23847839

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jVkfDQxPtInQwVg6G0zejv646uog?docId=CNG.d5f1d6f398b0170d098b3ce0afb1ae34.31

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/chemical-weapons-and-the-syrian-question.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/world/africa/libyan-violence-threatens-to-undercut-power-of-militias.html

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/79160.aspx

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765636070/Egypt-Son-of-top-Muslim-Brotherhood-leader-killed.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/us-f-16-fighter-jets-egypt_n_3574257.html

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/mar/04/weekend7.weekend9

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/al-qaeda-affiliate-playing-larger-role-in-syria-rebellion/2012/11/30/203d06f4-3b2e-11e2-9258-ac7c78d5c680_blog.html

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2012/1212/For-newly-recognized-Syrian-rebel-coalition-a-first-dispute-with-US-video

World Protests: Can You Hear Me Now?

In the last couple days mass protests have been spotted in Egypt comprised of the supporters and the opponents of former President Mohamed Morsi. On one side there is an army ready to enact its ultimatum to overthrow the government and instate a new political power. On the other side is the Muslim Brotherhood that would take on the deadly army in order to preserve the former president’s reign and ensure that democracy under Islamic law stays.

The people of Egypt fear what is happening to their beloved country and the economic crisis that is taking place and so the protests rage and violence ensues.  The Military Coup will most likely result in a dictatorship being reinstated, but who is to say that a president within a “brotherhood” is not like a dictator himself. Furthermore, the phrase”will most likely result in” is still an ‘up in the air’ statement. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the Military Coup, we may see the fall of democracy in Egypt take place while the immediate reinstatement of military power to rule over all is enacted, ‘temporarily’ of course. One thing is for sure: the people of Egypt all just want peace and prosperity for their children, their friends, their family, and their country. Just like those of the past, they rally together, on one side or the other, showing their pride and commitment to what they believe is most important. The world has heard their cry, a reaction for good or bad will be delivered, like it has been in the past.

What past you say? Let us take a stroll down memory lane and explore several world protests most significant to our mother Earth.

Related Article: Conservation Efforts of Earth

French and American Revolutions

The French and American revolutions were caused by the aristocratic rule that undermined the people and exploited their freedoms. Both of these revolutionary periods took a long time to resolve the ongoing problems of tyrannical monarchy. The French Revolution lasted some 10 years from 1789-1799; overthrowing the monarch King Louis XVI, giving power to a republic, and finally ending with the Consulate under Napoleon Bonaparte.  The American Revolution era lasted some 20 years starting around 1763 and finally ended in 1783 when a peace treaty marked the full separation from British power. The world watched and learned as nations became independent of monarchs and set examples for future nations to follow.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words will never be forgotten as they rang through the ears of 250,000 supporters of the civil rights movement rallied together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was an effort to end racism in the United States of America and the support it received helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, finally freeing a people from oppression and racism. The movement became of staple in the society of America and an example for bringing rights to others in the future. Even now as we struggle with gay marriage being accepted we frequently reference what Martin Luther King Jr. set out to accomplish.

Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

Probably the most memorabe in my mind would be the Tiananmen Square protests where students led demonstrations against the slow reform process that was taking place in China. The students followed astrophysicist and professor Fang Lizhi, who preached liberty and democracy after returning from tenure in America. The student protests inspired people in Beijing to follow suit, proclaiming the need for human rights and human power, only to be met with military resistance and martial law. The famous image of this protest was the “Tank Man” where one anonymous and yet to be named man stood in front of 4 military tanks as a sign of protest against military ultimatums. To this day this image is referenced during talk of peace or protest.

February 15, 2003 Anti-War Protest

Let’s not forget one of the most recent cries for peace that spread from DC, looped around the world through  more than 600 cities, and came back around to ring in president Bush’s ears: The all expansive War on Terrorism. In Rome 3 million people cried out against the war with the slogan: “stop the war, no ifs or buts”. Madrid rallied just over 1 million people to stop the war. The US had over 150 cities rallying to support peace and to stay out of Iraq. The world cried out for peace on February 15, 2003. Sadly, the world at large was ignored, and the invasion of Iraq took place only a month later on May 20, 2003, finally ending in 2011 after 2 years of withdrawing troops from Iraq. The message remains though, with one of the biggest rallies for peace to date, that we as a people want to coexist peacefully.

Related Article: War On Drugs

Where these are only 5 other protests out of many, many more significant protests, it is important to remember what they stood for: Hope. A hope for change, a hope for a better life, and a hope for peace. This article, of course, was not an attempt in any way to mock anyone or to devalue the lives that have been lost in any of the public outcries that have taken place in the past and that will unfortunately follow. This was simply a tribute and a remembrance to what has passed, inspired by the recent events in Egypt.

To all my brothers and sisters in Egypt, to all the supporters and opponents of Morsi, and to all the protesters of the world that are straining to have their voices heard: I wish you the least bloodiest road to your goal and may peace and prosperity find you. May we all live in a world where protests are a thing of the past, and where violence and war are no longer necessary or even thought of.

Finally, in the spirit of America’s Independence Day, I wish that all other countries, oppressed or yearning for freedom, may one day be able to cheer, as we privileged Americans do, for their own country’s Independence and Freedom. Happy July 4th America!

Cheers!

 

Research:

Egypt Crisis: Protesters

Brotherhood of Morsi

Newyorker Military Coup

Army Ousts Egypt’s President

President Mohamed Morsi

French Revolution

Louis XVI of France

Napoleon Bonaparte

American Revolution

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

I Have a Dream Speech

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Ten states to tackle gay marriage

Tiananmen Square Protests

Fang Lizhi

Tank Man

Anti War Protests

Invasion of Iraq

Independence Day, Fourth Of July

Wondergressive: War on Drugs

Wondergressive: Conservation Efforts of Earth

Failure of Central Planning and the Venezuelan Toilet Paper Shortage

Venezuelan officials continue to undermine individual freedom by further demonstrating the deleterious effects of economic central planning. The nation is experiencing shortages of dozens of staple items including rice, milk, butter and toilet paper. These shortages have been exacerbated by a new pilot program designed to limit the amount of goods each person can purchase. However, innovation and decentralization have provided a way for savvy shoppers to once again beat the government’s vain attempts to control the market.

In an attempt to curb the crisis, the western state of Zulia is embarking on a digital endeavor that will track the goods individuals purchase and will block them from buying staple products from different stores on the same day. Blagdimir Labrador, a state official, explains:

Considering the average size of a family, one person should only buy 20 staple products during the period that we establish, which we think will be one week.

The initiative’s pilot will be run in 65 supermarkets in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia.

Related Article: Public School Failure in America

The shortages were in part caused by price controls set into law during the Hugo Chavez administration, which keep goods like rice and flour below their market price. Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, describes the flawed policy:

State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union.

Although the intention of these policies was to ensure that the poor would have access to these necessities, their actual (and predictable) effect has been to dramatically reduce the supply of staple items.

Recognizing the shortage, many people are stocking up on supplies and some are reselling them at greatly inflated prices to needy Venezuelans. Zulia borders Colombia, where prices are several times the subsidized costs in Venezuela, and there has also been an increase in trade across the border.

Related Article: Income Inequality in America: Red Herrings and Wealth Envy

The result of this market mangling is an eminently foreseeable feedback loop: Economic controls and central planning distort the actual prices of staple products. This imbalance between cost and actual value leads to shortages which create incentives for people to hoard goods. This further diminishes supply, and by rationing the remaining goods the government further induces people to stockpile and the shortage is exacerbated.

In short, the Venezuelan government dug itself into an economic hole and is trying to dig its way out.

The national shortage of toilet paper has struck a nerve with many Venezuelans. In order to quell their frustration, the government says that it is going to import an additional 50 million rolls along with 760,000 tons of food.

Related Article: Bitcoin’s Rise and the Cyprus Bailout

Amazingly, Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming blamed the shortage of staple goods on “excessive demand.” To a dyed-in-the-wool statist, the inherent friction involved in managing a society is always to be blamed on the proletariat, never on the Top Men attempting to organize the nation.

However, people are already ingeniously subverting the statists’ attempts to model society. On May 29 Jose Augusto Montiel launched an app called Abasteceme, which translates to “Supply Me,” which helps people get around government-caused scarcity. The app utilizes crowd-sourcing technology that alerts users to supermarkets that still have desired goods in stock. According to Montiel, toilet paper and flour are the items most sought after by shoppers. When users find a store that has these items on the shelves, they flock to the market and whip out their checkbooks. More than 12,000 people have already downloaded Abasteceme, mostly in Caracas, but its popularity is spreading.

The economic problems in Venezuela are intrinsic to the state-controlled political legacy Chavez helped create. Venezuela ranks 174th out of 177 in the 2013 Heritage Foundation report on economic freedom, nestled neatly between Eritrea and Zimbabwe. Chavez’ authoritarianism echoes elsewhere in Venezuelan society, as Chavez repeatedly attacked and censored the media for criticizing his regime and held human rights in disregard.

Related Article: The Senate is Useless and Should be Dismantled

Central planners believe in Top Men who have the knowledge and ability to maximize the productivity of a country and its people. They fail, however, to have the humility to realize that this is an absurd task for any leader or politburo, as it’s inherently impossible for a group of few to effectively run a nation of many. History has borne this out repeatedly and this further elucidates the mindset of Top Men. Every problem or inefficiency can be blamed on the Little People who audaciously have an “excessive demand” for anything, be it toilet paper, a free press or even liberty itself. For them, the problem isn’t that their political and economic ideology is fundamentally flawed, logically destined to devolve into the same illiberal hell that every socialist government has thus descended.

It’s that the proletariat didn’t comply or simply that the “right” Top Men weren’t in charge.

Modern technology has made controlling human activity gloriously challenging. This is a decided advantage of living in the 21st century, where people can wirelessly transmit knowledge and innovate myriad wrenches to throw into the machinery of tyranny. However, to statists this development makes their ultimate goals more difficult to achieve. To them it is something to be stymied and snuffed out, perhaps most dramatically seen during the 2011 uprising in Egypt when the Mubarak regime literally turned off the Internet to make it more difficult for the protesters to organize.

This authoritarian impulse can also be seen in America, as news of secret NSA surveillance has been leaked. Also reminiscent of Chavez’ regime, the Associated Press was specifically targeted and the phone records for 20 reporters were seized by the Department of Justice.

The statist playbook is outdated; their only remaining tool is the administration of further force onto an increasingly unwilling populace. This gambit continues to work in many regimes around the world, but its expiration date is nearing. People have begun to realize that the decentralization of power and the abandonment of Top Men leads to freedom and peace.

By innovating to strip Top Men of their iron authority, the Little People—too numerous and evasive to be stomped out—can hopefully reject unwanted and unwarranted authority in illiberal governments around the world.

Sic semper tyrannis.

 

Related Article: Gossip Through the PRISM: NSA Shenanigans

 

Sources:

http://news.yahoo.com/venezuelan-state-considers-system-limit-food-purchases-160925448.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/10112604/Venezuelans-use-smartphone-app-to-find-toilet-paper.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/10062640/Venezuela-running-out-of-toilet-paper.html

http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/03/05/venezuela-chavez-s-authoritarian-legacy

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/01/egypt-isp-shutdown/

wondergressive.com/2013/06/11/prism/