The subjects covered in this blog include Slavoj Žižek, IQ tests, Chomsky, Tony Blair, Baudrillard, global warming, sociobiology, Islam, Islamism, Marx, Foucault, National/International Socialism, economics, the Frankfurt School, philosophy, anti-racism, etc... I've had articles published in The Conservative Online, American Thinker, Intellectual Conservative, Human Events, Faith Freedom, Brenner Brief (Broadside News), New English Review, etc... (Paul Austin Murphy's Philosophy can be found here

This blog used to be called EDL Extra. I was a supporter (neither a member nor a leader) of the EDL until 2012. This blog has retained the old web address.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Why Syria? Why Gaza?

It's just been made public that various leaders in the UK drew up plans to equip and train a force of up to 100,000 “rebels” to fight against President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

It was primarily General Sir David Richards' idea and it was first suggested in 2012. The plan even included a “shock and awe” operation similar to the one against the Iraqi army in 2003.

It has also been reported that the military plan was even considered by Prime Minister David Cameron and the National Security Council. “Officials” in Washington were also in on the plan. However, all these institutions and individuals deemed it to be too “radical” (or too “risky”).

Interestingly enough, though, only a week or so ago Barack Obama was demanding $500 million to train and fund the Free Syrian Army and other groups.

Unintended Consequences

Military interventions often make things worse (as can be said about the intervention in Iraq in 2003).

As Professor Michael Clarke, of the Royal United Services Institute, put it:

"There are no good options over Syria. It is a slow-motion road accident."

In other words, there's no way of predicting all the “unintended consequences” of military intervention simply because there are just so many variables involved. However, there are some unintended consequences which are predicted: it's just that they aren't intended. In other words, these predicted - though unintended - consequences are simply deemed to be the unfortunate by-products of military intervention; though they are still viewed as being politically acceptable.

In addition, when you make the losers the winners (such as the Sunnis in Syria or, previously, the Shia in Iraq), then at the same time you'll be making the winners the losers (such as the Shia/Alawites in Syria, or, previously, the Sunnis in Iraq).

Despite all that, the people directly involved in conflicts are desperate for help; and understandably so. Indeed some peoples - or at least their leaders - who otherwise hated the West (or America) have sometimes come to beg for its help.

Monzer Akbik, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, is directly involved in the conflict in Syria. He said:

"The international community did not intervene to prevent those crimes... [which]could have saved also a huge humanitarian catastrophe."

Has Monzer Akbik (as well as people like him) been active in campaigns for intervention in, say, Nigeria or the Congo? I doubt it. More relevantly, would Mr Akbik be in favour of action against an equally repressive Sunni regime or even against the (Sunni) jihadists of ISIS operating in Iraq and Syria itself? And historically, were the majority of Syrian Sunnis in favour of the intervention in Iraq to get rid of a Sunni leader – Saddam Hussein - who was far worse than Bashar Assad?

Why Syria and Not Nigeria or the Sudan?

So why Syria?

There have been very many equally bad - sometimes worse - conflicts in which Britain and America haven't - even for one moment - contemplated the possibility of military intervention.

Take the genocidal Islamic campaign in the Sudan between, roughly, 1991 and 2005 in which over one and a half million Christians and animists were killed by the regime in Khartoum and the jihadists of Janjaweed. Over two million people also died due to the resultant starvation caused by the conflict; and over four million people were displaced. In addition, Sudanese Muslims captured over 200,000 southern Sudanese and Nuba to use as slaves.

What about the 35,000 deaths as a result of Islamic terrorism in Pakistan between 2001 and 2011? (That 15,000 more deaths than those who have died as a result of “civil strife” in West Bank/Gaza between 1948 and 2014.) Should we also intervene in Pakistan – even if its President, Mamnoon Hussain, asked us to?

And finally: what about what's happening with Boko Haram in Nigeria or al-Shabab in Kenya at the moment?

It's often said that “we can't intervene everywhere” so we may as well intervene in the case of X or Y. Yes it's true that we can't intervene everywhere. Yet that statement only raises exactly the same question: Why Syria?

It can also be said that there are aspects of the conflict in Syria which weren't the case in the Sudan and which aren't the case in Nigeria. Then again, we can say that there are aspects of the case in Nigeria/Congo/Sudan/etc. that aren't the case in Syria. In other words, do those differences really make a difference? For example, it can be said that many Syrians are calling for intervention. Yes; though many Syrians – e.g., Shia, Christians, etc. - aren't.

The many calls for intervention in Syria are partly a consequence of the fact that Sunni Muslims in the West, as well as Syrian exiles, are very good lobbyists. They are better than, say, Sudanese/Nigerian Christians or the Thai Buddhist victims of the jihadists.

Another relevant factor is that there are between three and five million Muslims in the UK: 90% of whom are Sunnis. And, of course, it is the Sunnis of Syria who are the victims of the Bashar Assad's Shia (Alawite) regime.

More Bad News in Gaza

Think also of the obsessive attention to detail we find in the case of almost every Israeli action against the Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. There are far worse conflicts throughout the world.

As I said about intervention in Syria, it's often said – mainly by Western Leftists - that “we can't focus on all conflicts” so we may as well focus on Israel and the West Bank/Gaza. It's true that we can't focus on all conflicts. Yet that statement only raises the exact same question again: Why focus on what's happening in Gaza and the West Bank and not on, say, Pakistan or southern Thailand?

Here again it's not the intensity of the conflict or the scale of the suffering that's the primary reason for the obsessional scrutiny of - or the monomania about – the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict has been one of the least bloodthirsty of all 20th and 21st century conflicts with a maximum of 15,000 deaths (1948-2009) due to “civil strife”; which, importantly, also includes much Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence. Yet the fact is that more people have died (up to 120,000!) in what are called the Mexican Drug Wars than in the entire Israel-Palestinian conflict: and in far fewer years. (These Mexican drug wars are largely ignored by much of the European media; unlike what's happening in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.)

All this is also because there are far more American and European journalists in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza than in any other country outside Europe and America. (Though this too is partly a result of ideological/political bias.) On the other hand, other journalists (the non-Leftist ones) have called the Muslim and Arab world – outside Gaza and the West Bank! - “the arc of silence”.

So now let's put the cards on the table.

National Socialists (Nazis) show their very deep, sincere and profound sympathy for (brown) Palestinians because they are being "oppressed" (in their eyes) by evil Jews and also by a "capitalist pseudo-democracy" (Israel). 

International Socialists (Leftists/"progressives") show their eternal and monomaniacal sympathy for the Palestinians because they are being "oppressed", in their eyes, by... well, evil Jews and also by a "capitalist pseudo-democracy".


So it's frequently the case that the decision to intervene in a foreign conflict isn't determined by the number of deaths or the severity of the conflict.

Similarly, it's often political and/or ideological bias that determines which political events become big news stories and which ones are largely ignored.

This isn't to say that political bias is necessarily wrong or even that it's something that can be overcome. How can it be? My writing on this very subject displays my own political bias. Indeed when someone says that Journalist X or Politician Y is “politically biased” that doesn't automatically mean that what this politician or journalist says is false or wrong. 

All that's being said here is that political and ideological bias exists and it is that bias which largely accounts for where we militarily intervene. Similarly, political and ideological bias also largely – or sometimes only partly - explains why certain political events become major news stories whereas other equally – or more - serious political events do not. 


Notes on American Thinker Comments

1) "Close to 130,000 have died in Syria in just a few years, the slaughter of Christians continues in Islamic African nations and the ethnic-cleansing of Christians in Middle East countries has finally been noticed by Prince Charles and Tony Blair. Still Gaza is the big news item and only when Israel retaliates. (The dozens to rockets launched this year prior to Israel's actions were never reported.)"

Virtually all the major - and even the minor - conflicts in the world in the late 20th and 21st centuries had a higher body count that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: Algeria, the Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, the Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, west Africa, etc.

So you can only assume that the fixation is political/ideological (as well as racial) and not something to do with the severity of the conflict. And indeed it is.

Israel commits three sins: it's capitalist, it's a democracy and it's a state for Jews. Thus, even if only three Palestinians had died in the entire period, Leftists and Nazis would still obsess about Israel's "oppressive treatment of the Palestinians".

2) "Now that Egypt is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, so should Israel in Gaza. I read today that Egypt is planning to import natural gas from Israel."

The leaders of Egypt have always had an ambivalent relationship to Israel. Even the nationalists, such as Nasser, felt the need to come out with much crude stuff about Israel and the Jews. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, just like Hamas, has never had an ambivalent attitude to Israel - it must be destroyed. Not only destroyed as a state: every Jew must also be ethnically cleansed from this "Islamic land"; as every Jew has almost been ethnically cleansed from the entire Middle East (save 10,000 in Iran).

That's why the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Egypt's Anwar Sadat - because of his overtures to Israel.

To put it in the words of Azzam Pasha of the Arab League:

"This will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre..."

3) "The author is undoubtedly correct, but his explanation is incomplete - for it does not factor in deeper motives for intervention, not only in Syria but in the Ukraine, namely the competing western and eastern energy blocs vying for control of the enormously lucrative and strategically-important oil and natural gas trade in the region."

That's why I said it was "partly" a response to Syrian lobbyists (or however I phrased it).

What you say about oil is interesting.

The Left says "it's all about oil" (or global warming, etc.). In other words, it's all about Western capitalism.

But it's never all about X or Y.

Nonetheless, although Leftists provide a Marxist analysis of all conflicts in terms of, well, capitalism and it overseas adjuncts, I would never say that it's not about oil at all.

The Left's default position is to blame Boko Haram, Syria, Iraq... everything on Western capitalism. Without that fixation on evil Western capitalism and its adjuncts in the Arab and Third World, Leftists wouldn't know what to say. Their analyses of all these conflicts are reductionist and essentialist.

Still, it has something to do with oil - just not everything.

"The western bloc consists of the U.S., European Union/NATO, Israel, and the Sunni Muslim gulf oil states of the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, etc.). The eastern or Russian-led alliance, on the other hand, consists principally of Russia, China, and the Shi'ite states of the Middle East such as Iran, Syria (and possibly Iraq)."

Yes, I can buy that... up to a point. Despite saying that, ideology, Islam, individuals, societies, etc. still run free from the power of these various oil lobbies - no matter how much money and power they have. Money and oil can't lead people along blindly. (Leftists are never led along, are they?)

Leftists, for example, said that the intervention in Afghanistan was all about an oil pipeline being built, I think, from Turkey to somewhere in one of the Muslim republics (or the other way around). The US and UK intervened in 2001. After 13 years, as far as I know, that pipeline still hasn't been built. In fact, because of the Taliban, the mountains, the tribal wars, etc., it was always a long shot that it would ever be built. Still, it gave Leftists the opportunity to construct a reductionist (Marxist) analysis of the conflict in Afghanistan.

"... George Soros and his kind (including Barack Obama) aren't interested in Syria or the Ukraine because they care about the plight of ordinary people in either place; they are there because they see a chance to make a great deal of money and expand their power. In the end, it always comes down to money and power. Cui bono - who benefits?"

No, it's never only about money and power. Not even with George Soros.
Your analysis completely goes against Obama's affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood and his possible Islamic beliefs. To you, it's all about money and power. Perhaps money and power are the means to bring about Obama's - and even Soros's - ideological dreams and fantasies.

That phrase, Cui bono, is something I read a lot in The Guardian or on Nazi websites. It's too conspiratorial for me. Sure, it has the advantage of simplifying things. Power, money and oil are indeed big players; though boiling the entire Obama phenomenon down to his love of power and money goes against what most people who post on here say about the President. To me it sounds like a Marxist analysis which completely discounts factors that aren't to do with economics and power (money).

As I said to FeralCat (below), I didn't say you are a Marxist. I said you offered a Marxist analysis of a very specific subject.

I can't see how my saying that you are offering a Marxist analysis (even if I'm wrong) is an ad hominem; especially since I explained my view. If I had accused you of being a Marxist (full stop), that would be an ad hominem.
You even quote what I said: "Marxist analysis which completely discounts factors that aren't to do with economics and power..." That is not an ad hominem. And I included other points in my initial comment. Now I may be wrong; but it wasn't an ad hominem.

"... Barack Obama... interested in Syria or the Ukraine because they care about the plight of ordinary people in either place; they are there because they see a chance to make a great deal of money and expand their power. In the end, it always comes down to money and power. Cui bono - who benefits?"

I can't fit all that together with your new comments about Obama being Muslim Brotherhood and being "driven ideologically".

How about a compromise? -

Mr X can be driven by power/money and by ideology/religion.

Indeed, as I said, sometimes power and money are but a means to further an ideology; or, in Obama's case, Sunni Islam (or the Muslim Brotherhood).

Think here of Maurice Strong, the warmist and self-described socialist who's also a multimillionaire businessman who has used his money and clout to further UN "globalism". He even helped found the UN's warmist apparatchiks the IPCC. In that respect, he's very much like George Soros.

Money/power and ideology (world socialism) go together in Maurice Strong's case.

Again, I didn't say he is a Marxist. I said he offered a Marxist analysis. There's a difference.

People on the Right are often spotting other conservatives/right-wingers offering Marxist analyses without thereby classing them as "Marxists". You can use specific Marxist analyses without being an outright Marxist.

The problem is, if you boil everything down to economics (or oil), and discount the independence of ideology, consciousness and, in some cases, religion, you can't get much more Marxist than that. It's called materialist reductionism.

Even some people in various Christian churches use Marxist analyses about, say, poverty, Israel and the Palestinians, why Hitler came to power (because of capitalism and with the "help of capitalists", etc.) and so on.

Taking in economics or (oil) etc. is fine, as long as people don't say "it's all about oil" or all about Western capitalism's global warming (e.g. Boko Haram), etc. When you reduce everything to capitalism, the greed of capitalists and various conspiracies between capitalists and political leaders, then you're offering a Marxist analysis.

There are conspiracies, sure, and there is capitalism, it's just that the Marxist picture is simplistic and quite deliberately so. Only simple (reductionist) pictures will fire "the people" up to embrace the revolution... or so Marxist activists have it.

4) When I said "without that fixation on evil capitalism and its evil adjuncts in the Arab and Third World", I wasn't telling people what I thought, I was saying that this is what many most Leftists think.

There is no Western imperialism and certainly no colonialism - in the 19th century senses - in the Arab world or anywhere else today.

Most of the Left base what they think about this on a book written by Lenin in 1917. That Leninist vision might have been updated a bit; though it's still at the heart of the Left's anachronous views about "Western imperialism" or "Western colonialism".

For example, the Israel-obsessives of the Left say that the Jews were "colonialists" in Palestine (before the state of Israel was created) even though they never exploited the Palestinians (in factories, farms or anywhere else), they improved the lives of Palestinians (by harnessing the land through irrigation, etc.), they often employed them as equals; and they worked the land themselves. In fact the lives of Palestinians improved dramatically from the 1920s - or before - onwards as a result of Jewish know-how. (The Arab population grew dramatically too, and Palestinians began to live longer as a result of "Jewish colonialism".)

As usual, Leftists/Marxists are fixated on theories (about "imperialism" and "colonialism") and they make damn sure that reality, or the facts, fit their theories rather than the other way around.

5) "The UK military Chief was most likely told to put a contingency plan together as to how many men this 'rebel' army would need to have , in order to depose Assad. He himself might not agree with it .We can't presume he did/ would have .It is his job to obey The PM & Cabinet."

Actually, I think it was the other way around. It was almost exclusively - from what I've read - the General's idea and Cameron and co. rejected it.

All I can say that General Sir David Richards may be brilliant at his job - military strategy; though I bet he has almost no idea about Sunni-Shia history or the fact that the Sunni "rebels" are overwhelmingly led by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, I bet he knows next to nothing about the war between the Syrian Baathist regime and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood proceeded the "civil war" (which began in 2011) by some 60 years. In other words, in a sense the civil war didn't begin in 2011 - it began in the 1940s or even before.

Added to that it can be said that the overall Sunni-Shia civil war began in 656AD.

However, I wouldn't say that I know that the General has little knowledge about these things. It's just a bet.

When I read and hear military men talking about these conflicts; they rarely mention the ideologies or beliefs of the people involved. That's not what they are trained to study.

And even if the General were an expert on Shia-Sunni history, that knowledge wouldn't be paid attention to by UK's political leaders. In other words, it wouldn't go down well in the Foreign Office, or wherever, if he stressed the Islamic and historical nature of the conflict in Syria. Then again, I don't know what he knows. But I'm pretty sure about what he can and can't say to David Cameron and other leaders.

This is not to say that our military leaders are uninformed. It's just to say that our military leaders are military leaders.

Our political leaders, instead, think - or pretend to think - in terms of goodies and baddies when all the while they may be thinking about "energy imports" and oil.

Then again, if it's all about oil, perhaps we should invade Saudi Arabia and take it over... seriously. Of course the backlash would be massive. But the backlash to the intervention in Iraq was massive too.

If we took over Saudi Arabia, so many problems would be solved... and many other problems created. However, the problems solved would far surpass the problems created.

6) "The author first asks: why Syria and not Sudan or Nigeria?"

That's a question I would ask the US and UK governments. I know that all of us have our own ideas as to why Syria was chosen and, say, Nigeria, etc. have been ignored.

The point is that talk about oil, etc. is not the reason our leaders give, of course. They talk about "humanitarian catastrophes" and the like. Yet on that reasoning we should be intervening all over the place; which we don't. (Think of various conflicts in Congo, in which literally millions have died.)

However, I don't think it's all about oil either. How could it be when there are so many players involved?

For example, how can we square the common view (on American Thinker) that Obama is intent in destroying the US economy, and even the US itself, with the idea that he's prepared to fight wars, or arm Sunni Islamists, in order to secure oil... for an America which he hates?

Unless it's all about Obama simply gaining more power and money. And I don't entirely accept that either.

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