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The Phony War in Syria

World  (tags: Eric Margolis, Iraq, ISIS, Mideast, Syria, Turkey )

- 1095 days ago -
For a variety of reasons, the much ballyhooed "final offensive" against ISIS is moving with all the speed of a medieval army of drunken foot soldiers and all the audacity of a lady's garden party.


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Darren Woolsey (218)
Sunday April 24, 2016, 3:22 am
The sooner phony wars perpetuated by phony people are ended, the better for all humanity.

Judy C (91)
Sunday April 24, 2016, 7:08 pm
This article paints a picture of what's going on in Syria in a way that one can actually visualize what's going on. There's such a mess there, and there is a big bloated war industry that is literally making a killing off this situation. From the article:

The notion that a rabble of 20-something ISIS kids can stand up to highly trained heavily armed western troops and their native auxiliaries is absurd. ISIS is what the Ottomans used to call, “bashi-bazooks,” armed street thugs used for looting and attacking civilians.

The small Russian air contingent in Syria has proven far more effective than the US and its allies. The mighty US Air Force has continued pinprick attacks on ISIS positions in what has become a pantomime war. It’s almost as if the western powers are playing make-believe in Syria.

Perhaps they are. The Saudis and Turks, both very close US allies, have been arming and supplying ISIS in order to topple the Damascus-based Shia regime of President Bashar Assad. Washington has gone along with this covert fight while lamenting the terrors of “terrorism.”

You're right about phony wars, Darren!

e W (24)
Monday April 25, 2016, 12:51 pm
noted, some scary copmments there.

Stephen Brian (23)
Monday April 25, 2016, 10:21 pm
Welcome to what happens when a government is sensitive to causing civilian casualties.

Here is the rule I go by when judging what it would really take to capture a city like Mosul intact:
In 1945, in the only modern battle where a major city was taken with far fewer civilian than military casualties, the Soviets needed 2.5 million soldiers. They needed this many because they had no idea what the distribution of German troops would be and they knew the Germans could travel freely through the city so they needed sufficient forces to withstand the maximum possible assault (given the terrain and structures) at all locations where they operated. That means the number of soldiers necessary varies primarily with the area of the city, and Berlin is about 891 square km. That suggests that to take a city intact in peer warfare requires roughly 2,800 soldiers per square km. Mosul is roughly 400 square km, so to take it intact by storm like Berlin would require 1.12 million soldiers of equivalent capability to ISIS' fighters. Even adjusting for training and professionalism, we'd still be talking about over 100,000 U.S. soldiers deployed at once. We're talking about an operation on the scale of Desert Storm (though obviously not quite as big).

Could U.S. forces just hop into a Jeep, drive up to Mosul, and demand surrender? Yes, but only if Americans made a point of showing that they do not care about massive civilian casualties, like the Nazis in the historical examples given. The American public would not support that today. Could local Iraqi forces do it unassisted without killing roughly a hundred thousand civilians? Also probably not: They tend to identify with and fight for their local communities rather than their government and country so while, with their equipment, they may be individually superior to most ISIS forces, as a unit they are on-level or may actually be inferior to ISIS.

Now we're stuck with a problem: Accept the "phony war", or swallow our distaste for blood on our hands and encourage Western armies to go ahead and bomb civilian areas until there aren't enough buildings left for ISIS to stage substantial forces in any area of the city. I honestly support the latter: A drawn-out war would be bloodier overall.

Judy C (91)
Monday April 25, 2016, 11:47 pm
Stephen, sometimes fighting a corrupt and seemingly endless war looks like an end in itself for the US. We need ISIS, a relatively toothless bogeyman, I think.

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday April 26, 2016, 2:53 am
I do not support war in any context.

Armchair theorizing reduces the event to an abstract intellectual argument, and removes any notion of compassion or conscience.

Roberto MARINI (88)
Tuesday April 26, 2016, 8:41 am
Thank you

Lenore K (0)
Tuesday April 26, 2016, 10:43 am

Janet B (0)
Tuesday April 26, 2016, 10:50 am

Judy C (91)
Tuesday April 26, 2016, 10:58 am
I agree, Darren, war is completely unacceptable. Warmongers like Hillary Clinton are very dangerous. Diplomacy never even seems to enter her head. Also, your statement about turning war into an abstraction is so true.

Stephen Brian (23)
Sunday May 1, 2016, 11:20 am
War is like disease. Nobody likes it, but it's going to happen. If we're not ready for it, or if we're not willing to accept the symptoms of aggressive treatment, then it will be much worse.

The best analogy I know is that of a burning house. Typically, at least where I live, the damage from the water used putting out the fire is far greater than the damage from the fire itself. Looking at only the surface, the intuitive solution is to simply take out the sprinklers and shut down the fire department. No more water damage, and the little damage done by the fire itself is acceptable. Of course, we know that when not put out aggressively, fire spreads and does vastly greater harm to the house and surrounding homes than the water that we see. We need a balance where we do not pull out the fire-hoses every time somebody cooks dinner, but are to do the water-damage necessary to put out something that would grow out of control. In preparation, we need to study fire so we can recognize real dangers and know when and where to aim our hoses to do as little damage as possible while putting it out.
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