Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria

Motives & Mysteries: Tripoli Edition

abu-samir-abu-michel1

Whenever a bomb explodes in Lebanon, conversations both public and private revolve around an old parlor game that we might call: “Motives & Mysteries”. For those unfamiliar with the genre, here’s a snippet:

Abu Michel: Terrible, the news from Tripoli.

Abu Samir: Just awful.

Abu Michel: A bunch of jihadi dogs and salafist mercenaries. I hope the Resistance hunts each of them down and strings them up.

Abu Samir:  My dear fellow, do you realize that the bombs targeted Sunni mosques?

Abu Michel: So?

Abu Samir: So, it obviously wasn’t the work of salafists. Why would they kill other Sunnis? It had to be Hizbullah.

Abu Michel: Nonsense.

Abu Samir: Payback for the Dahiyeh explosion. Sending a signal to al-Assir’s boys and the other militant Sunni factions that they won’t be pushed around.

Abu Michel: That’s ludicrous. Hizbullah has no motivation to inflame sectarian tensions. The Tripoli operation was obviously carried out by someone who had an interest in emboldening Sunnis to take revenge against Hizbullah.

Abu Samir: That’s what Hizbullah wants you to think. They struck back at the salafists, knowing full well that no one could imagine they could be so stupid as to blow up a Sunni mosque.

Abu Michel: Too clever by half, my dear friend. It was actually the jihadi groups who planted the bombs, knowing that no one would accuse them of killing other Sunnis.

Abu Samir: Hizbullah is fighting in Syria in the broad light of day, alongside a regime that is gassing hundreds of innocent civilians. Do you think they are worried about offending Sunni sensibilities? The Tripoli bomb was the work of a thuggish militia that doesn’t mince words.

Abu Michel: Thuggish militia? Hizbullah’s a ladies book club compared to the savages crossing the border from Syria. These guys decapitate their enemies, eat their organs, and post the photos on Instagram. They take selfies with severed heads. Saudi Arabia is paying Al-Qaida to blow up Sunni mosques in Lebanon so as to cause a Sunni-Shiite war that will bog Hizbullah down, thereby making it easier to defeat Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Abu Samir: Nice try. But let me enlighten you. The Tripoli bomb was obviously an Iranian-Syrian plot carried out by Hizbullah in order to make mainstream Sunnis fear a descent into a sectarian civil war, leading them to give up their opposition to Hizbullah’s weapons and relinquish their support for the Syrian revolution by painting their enemies as foreign mercenaries and radicals.

Abu Michel: I see you’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated by the American-Zionist-Wahhabi axis.

Abu Samir: Not nearly as brainwashed as you are by the Russian-Iranian-Shabbiha axis…

You get the idea.

Once upon a time, I engaged in such conversational helices in the hope that they would lead to some kind of convergence. On rare occasions they do, but typically not. Over the years, I’ve devised a simple rule to gauge whether or not it’s worth engaging. 

The rule is this. Ask your interlocutor what they would say if the awful truth were conclusively established, and their heroes were implicated in the grotesque crime under debate. For example, if it were unequivocally confirmed that Bashar al-Assad gassed 1300 civilians, what would Abu Michel have to say? What if it came to light that Ahmad al-Assir organized the car bomb on the Tripoli mosques? How would Abu Samir’s outlook change in that case?

If such a revelation only leads your discussion partner to start another round of Motives & Mysteries (“there had to have been a good reason for it… it was unfortunate but necessary … casualties are unavoidable in a war against imperialism …”), then smile politely and just move along.

Discussion

71 thoughts on “Motives & Mysteries: Tripoli Edition

  1. Good advice, thanks. Love the newspapers.

    Posted by habibbattah | August 24, 2013, 11:05 am
  2. We live in an era in which it was “conclusively established” that Saddam’s WMD’s forced US to invade Iraq.

    It’s all down to what standard of proof is acceptable. Unfortunately “because I say so and so are a bunch of fascist thugs” is considered more than adequate proof positive among even the most rarified and refined circles of influence.

    Don’t let that polite smile freeze your face as you just keep walking on by………..

    Posted by lally | August 24, 2013, 12:55 pm
  3. What ever happened with STL?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 1:02 pm
  4. Lally

    The WMD argument was conclusively dismissed by the MSM, and George Bush is now considered one of the worst presidents in US history by a majority of Americans (and a war criminal by a significant subset thereof). The point is that it’s possible to have reasonable disagreements with reasonable people…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 24, 2013, 1:10 pm
  5. In Defence of a True Leader

    QN,

    YOU may consider GWB one of the worst presidents in US history, I consider him above average. IMHO, Carter and Obama are the two worst presidents this past century. Both in terms of foreign appeasement policy and the economy.

    Now back to GWB. You and every arab seem to blame GWB for single-handedly ridding the world of Saddam Hussein and giving the Iraqis the opportunity of creating a democracy. The same thing the Syrian opposition is BEGGING for. Meanwhile GWB haters seem to forget the democrats and the UN AGREED with GWB’s military plan as it was argued in congress and the UN (1441).

    It is clear to this American that we need more leaders like GWB and not pussies like Erdogan, KSA, Arab League, Obama and the EU.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 1:28 pm
  6. Yes, exactly QN. We saw it all play before with the Hariri and other murders in Lebanon. You forgot to mention Occam’s Razor. Let’s apply it here. People kill their enemies therefore the Dahiye bombing was tafkiris and the Tripoli bombings were Hezbollah or Syria or both. Any other conclusion would need a ton of evidence to convince me otherwise.

    Posted by AIG | August 24, 2013, 2:15 pm
  7. QN

    The WMD argument was NOT conclusively dismissed by the American media until long after it ceased to matter. Those of us who were actively involved in “crowd sourcing” the truthiness of the situation are more than familiar with the timeline. Our media, with a few exceptions, was an active participant in promoting the administration’s bogus claims. That outrageous situation led to an explosion of interest in foreign media sources by skeptical Americans deeply offended by the seemingly blanket betrayal of expected journalistic standards. The search for reliable sourcing took me to the Israeli media which freely discussed the anticipated attacks on Iraq up until Rumsfeld’s admonitions to the Israelis to STFU finally took effect in 11/2002.

    Rummy and his co-conspirators are the un-indicted war criminals, not the hapless believing recently converted to evangelical Christianity, GWB. That simple man was easily convinced that it was his Mission with a capital “M” to save the people of Iraq.

    BTW any contrition by the US media has proven to be as substantial as a misty morning. They are collectively, even worse about parroting a rigidly narrow perspective; especially when it comes to matters of foreigners,war & enemies.

    My understanding of your definition of “reasonable people” is that they must first accept a presumption of guilt based on some ideal of absolute proof that is, in reality, increasingly situational and defined by those with highest stakes in the game putting their hands on the scale.

    Isn’t that preaching to the converted?

    If not, I would be happy to be disabused of my erroneous impressions.

    Posted by lally | August 24, 2013, 2:38 pm
  8.   Murder by ME Despots is OK, so let’s blame GWB NewZ

    the un-indicted war criminals

    Lally,

    What’s an “un-indicted war criminal”? Is that someone you don’t like but you can’t find a crime to charge him with?

    While you throw GWB and his cabinet in jail like President Morsi, you may as well throw in every senator and congressman who passed the Iraq War Resolution (including Senator Hilary Clinton) and all the members of the UNSC who passed Resolution 1441.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Resolution

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 3:38 pm
  9. The WMD argument was “conclusively” dismissed?

    I must have missed the memo :).

    Posted by Gabriel | August 24, 2013, 4:48 pm
  10. Gabriel,

    Get with the progeam. As for me, seeing Saddam in his Spider Hole costume was priceless. I think we’ll have to wait for another Republican president to see Bashar and Athsma in a similar venue.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 5:07 pm
  11. Some comments here imply that Obama “ought to” gamble American blood and treasure to ensure that one group of Syrian political actors (many of them ideologically anti-American) triumph over the ideologically anti-American Assad regime. And you can be sure that many of those braying loudest for such action (i.e., interventionist Republicans nostalgic for GWB) would turn on him mercilessly if he did intervene and it blew up (cf. Libya and Benghazi). Why do Obama and the US “owe” anything to anyone with respect to determining the outcome of the Syrian civil war?

    Posted by Jim Reilly | August 24, 2013, 10:26 pm
  12. Jim Reilly,

    I never said the US owed anything to anyone. Secondly, you obviously didn’t read my post carefully. I think it is in the interest of the US to conduct regime change in Syria. Let the arabs form a government and support the pro-western opposition. Not one drop of American blood is needed. Let the Saudis fund weapons purchases.

    Here’s a post from a pro-western, anti-regime participant from SC:

    —————–

    Tara on August 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Reve,

    The US being the leader of the world has a responsibility to protect. The US should launch air strikes to neutralize the regime’s air power, its reserve of WMD, the presidential palace, the republic guards, the forth brigade, the Fadl Abu al Abbas brigade around Zainab shrine and HA. Syrians hate al Assad and will cheer the regime annihilation. His Alawi sect will be initialy disgruntled but will eventually resign to power and strive to engage in a political transition to be represented.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 10:40 pm
  13. Yes, what possibly could go wrong?

    Posted by Jim Reilly | August 24, 2013, 10:47 pm
  14. Yes, what possibly could go wrong?

    Jim Reilly,

    Well let’s see. A fighter and pilot could be shot down or crash. An air to ground missile could wipe out a couple dozen civilians or we could do nothing like were doing now and another 100000 people could die including children gassed with lethal chemicals.

    As a jew, I would have prayed for air strikes against concentration camps even if many non-combatants were killed.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2013, 11:18 pm
  15. Gabe!) True that for some, the memo has yet to arrive. Look in the dead letter department.

    And yet, in retrospect, the sole WMD scenario that ever made any sense was the tale of trucks of contraband Iraqi weapons bundled into Syria. Anderson Cooper 360 could storify it for us.

    Then again, perhaps those are base stocks for the “rebel” concoctions being deployed in the name of the ruler Assad. I jest.
    ………

    Favorite line of the dialogue between Abu Samer and the sturdier Abu Michel is from the latter’s gothic description of the islamofascist berserkers:

    “These guys decapitate their enemies, eat their organs, and post the photos on Instagram. They take selfies with severed heads.”

    The “selfies” business is deft.

    Posted by lally | August 25, 2013, 1:14 am
  16. Bravo QN, you have triggered another AbuSamir – AbuMichel (ASAM) type debate on your page in response to the original ASAM debate you posted, so if anything it can only proves your point.

    The question is ultimately not about ASAM and who is right and who is wrong; it is about rationality itself. When you have Nobel Prize winners and eminent thinkers participating in an ASAM debate it begs the question about the bottom line. This is related to a couple of programming lines in the operating system and not in any upgradeable software that can fix a bug.

    Over the last decade, we have seen the ASAM virus spreading and triggering the fall of many idols – The Chomskys and Stiglitzes of this world are no more rational or clever and their ideas no more relevant than those of a Aounist taxi driver, a Hizballah limousine chauffeur or a Lebanese Forces valet parking attendant in Gemmayze.

    Ultimately the ASAM effect may mean that people will stop speaking to each other, send their kids to different schools, certainly not intermarry and you will have segregated boroughs, suburbs or neighborhoods. I am sure this is already happening in places like Washington DC. Fifty years after that march, I suppose we are more likely to find a racially mixed couple than a politically diverse one.

    Thank god that the original Abu Samir and Abu Michel are still talking.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | August 25, 2013, 2:28 am
  17. Obama has to do something, I think. Assad is testing his “red line”. If there’s no military action, the door is opened to tactical usage of chemical weapons, which could seriously tip the balance in favour of the regime. So IMO the US has to take military action.

    Problem is, if the US intervenes and takes out Assad, then they’ll be responsible for a mass ethnic cleansing of Alawites by Al Qaeda groups and a second Afghanistan. Even worse, if the US intervenes, but not in a way to make the regime lose, then that doesn’t really deter Assad from using chemical weapons at all! He knows that the US won’t do anything to remove him so he can use all the gas he wants.

    So….basically I have no answers. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to go to the Russians, admit they were right (Assad can stay) and try and get a UN peacekeeping intervention to stop the killing. Which is probably completely pie-in-the-sky.

    Posted by Will | August 25, 2013, 8:34 am
  18. Will,

    So IMO the US has to take military action.

    Says who? Of course Obama’s “red line” forces him to take military action. Bummer. I believe his first shots will be weak.

    But beyond that, I think it is America’s interest to depose Assad.

    Problem is, if the US intervenes and takes out Assad, then they’ll be responsible for a mass ethnic cleansing of Alawites by Al Qaeda groups and a second Afghanistan.

    Just like Israel was responsible for the murder of innocent, unarmed Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla by the Christian Phalange. I usually find the ACTUAL murderers the ones guilty of murder, but I understand why the US would be responsible, because the US and Israel are responsible for everything.

    Anyway, learning from our mistakes in Iraq, you punish the regime by deposing its leader, and then you get out. You support the right opposition group and hope for the best.
    ______

    Daniel Pipes on US president’s legacies in the ME:

    http://www.danielpipes.org/13286/obama-foreign-policy

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 25, 2013, 10:32 am
  19. Great article and very true, no matter what the subject is, when you sit with a Lebanese, he or she is convinced that they know the real truth even if all evidence are pointing to the contrary. My favorite line is “sending signals”. Everyone it seems is always sending signals either through veiled wordings (seemingly innocuous comment in a talk show (but the savvy listener knows better), furtively planted bombs (to coincide with something or the other), public meetings between officials (who usually don’t get along but are letting another person know that a coalition might be forming), location of meetings (which hotel), special trips to Saudi Arabia or Germany (insert any country here), timing of bombings (before or after a speech)…enough to make anyone feel like a complete fool because somehow they missed this very obvious signals!!!!!

    Posted by rpver | August 25, 2013, 12:58 pm
  20. RPVER,

    Using CW is a signal too.

    Interesting how muqawamistas communicate.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 25, 2013, 1:56 pm
  21. Lally,

    Not at all :). Countries in the Middle East and the rest of the world aren’t pursuing any sort of MD weaponry. That sort of pursuit is limited to Russia, and the countries of the West, lol.

    Well they’re not really pursuing those weapons until such time they have the weaponry!

    Posted by Gabriel | August 25, 2013, 9:23 pm
  22. Lally said:

    My understanding of your definition of “reasonable people” is that they must first accept a presumption of guilt based on some ideal of absolute proof that is, in reality, increasingly situational and defined by those with highest stakes in the game putting their hands on the scale.

    I don’t follow. My rule is to ask the person to engage in a thought experiment. All I want to know is whether they are hard-wired to defend their “good guys” at any cost, or if their support is based on some kind of standard. Why bother arguing over who committed such-and-such a crime if it’s only a crime when one side commits it?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 26, 2013, 9:12 am
  23. All I want to know is whether they are hard-wired to defend their “good guys” at any cost, or if their support is based on some kind of standard.

    QN,

    My support is based on a “standard” called freedom, democracy, human rights and rule-of-law.

    Just FYI.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 26, 2013, 11:58 am
  24. AP,

    Those standards of yours, their definition is not universally agreed upon. I’m no expert, but…

    Human rights – can be applied to an individual or to a collective. Tribal societies tend to be more collective than your average American understanding of human rights.

    Democracy – I would reckon there is a better objective universal definition of at least the building blocks, but many nuances of democracy.

    Rule of law ought not be confused for rule by law (like in authoritarian societies), but that’s a different thing.

    And of course the concept of freedom, as in attempting to delineate where your freedom ends.

    The point in all this, too many discussions have I had where educated people argue using the above words but their understanding of them differs quite alot to my understanding of them.

    And that’s just part of the problem. In order for the US to protect it’s “freedom”, you are willing to trample upon the rights of others to keep/obtain/safeguard it. I ain’t saying it’s right nor wrong, just stating a fact.

    Posted by Pas Cool | August 26, 2013, 1:15 pm
  25. Pas Cool,

    I don’t mind you playing Devil’s Advocate, because I enjoy these types of discussion.

    None of this is black or white, OTOH, individual and basic human rights are not very complicated and not very much subject to interpretation.

    That is why I consider Bashar Assad’s regime illegitimate, because he refuses to grant basic human rights to his people (among other things).

    Does he have a term limit? How long can he serve? Can people speak their minds?

    Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PA suffer in these areas as well. It’s all gotta change if people want to live in freedom, and, I think, that’s how the arab spring sprung…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 26, 2013, 1:34 pm
  26. QN,

    The standard in question is not a moral one. It is an epistemological one: What makes good evidence? What evidence is acceptable and how to collect it? How much evidence is required to make a judgement? What does it mean if one side does not allow evidence to be collected? etc. etc.

    In the US for example, there is a different standard for conviction between criminal law and civil law. In the former you need “beyond reasonable doubt” and in the latter “clear and convincing evidence”. The latter is a much lower standard. The problems you describe arise because people apply different standards depending on who the leading suspects are and how they feel about them. They also tend to place different trust in sources of evidence. For some people, if Nasrallah said it, it must be true. For others, not so much.

    Posted by AIG | August 26, 2013, 1:43 pm
  27. I have long reached the exact same conclusion as you have, QN. Hence my increasingly scarce commenting on this site and others like it.
    I find that 99% of the discussions out there mirror exactly your Abu Samir vs. Abu Michel debate (almost word for word, as a matter of fact). And I too find myself applying a very similar “test” to the one you describe. Ask one question and gauge the response. Oftentimes, the other person is “hardwired” to defend their side, no matter what. So I move on.

    And much like AIG says above, unless there’s some compelling evidence, I find myself usually relying on Occam’s razor. I find that it’s usually the simplest explanation and is accurate more times than not.
    The problem with conspiracy theories, on the other hand, is that they are impossible to prove or disprove (and hence, impossible to argue, as Abu Samir and Abu Michel demonstrate) and often end up adding so many layers of complexity and indirection to any theory that they cross into the absurd.

    It’s rather sad that people are so “hardwired” to defend their positions that they often do not even realize when they’ve crossed into the absurd.

    It’s only one or two steps removed from the above AbuMichel/AbuSamir dialogue to add the following (and do so with a straight face!)

    Abu Michel: Of course, everyone knows the Takfiris, while funded by the US/KSA/Jooz were in fact genetically modified humans, results of the recently exposed CIA genetic labs at Area 51. They were “modified” to have less self-preservation instincts (how else can you explain such a disdain for their own lives?) and more brutality and animalistic instincts!

    Abu Samir: Impossible! Everyone knows Area 51 is a myth! But back in the soviet days, it is well known the Russians ended up with genetic anomalies near the area of Chernobyl! Ever wonder why Iran is so dead set on that nuclear program? It has nothing to do with the atomic bomb. That’s really too impractical! Irradiated Shia warriors, on the other hand! Pure win! It is well know that there are Russian scientists, ex-KGB, working in Iran to attempt at reproducing the Chernobyl experiments!

    (You can keep adding layers as you wish….Neocons being actual outer-space aliens, who bodysnatched/replaced the originals – After all, how else to explain Ann Coulter?….Hitler’s secret descendants being the true policymakers at the Kremlin – After all, how else to explain Superman Putin?)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 26, 2013, 2:12 pm
  28. Of course AP, I agree with most of what you wrote.

    Just that a slight problem begins when one attempts to make the Western concept of human rights the universal one. Hamas and Hezb would argue that they have the right understanding of human rights, emanating from a collective point of view. I guess the ultimate question is, is it right to try and impose a certain understanding of human rights on another country? Do we in the Western world have an obligation to do so? When is the time to violate another country’s sovereignty, if ever?

    Been pondering this myself for a long time. I guess, in the end, you can only argue that you have the higher moral ground. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a pretty good start, but it says nothing of violating another country’s sovereignty.

    Posted by Pas Cool | August 26, 2013, 2:21 pm
  29. Hamas and Hezb would argue that they have the right understanding of human rights, emanating from a collective point of view.

    Pas Cool,

    You mean Sharia Law? Uh, sorry, religious law and univeral human rights are polar opposites and none can live with the other.

    I guess the ultimate question is, is it right to try and impose a certain understanding of human rights on another country?

    No, definitely not. OTOH, I know of no country or society that rejects human rights when given the opportunity to vote for them.

    Let’s take Egypt as an example. The people voted for a conservative, muslim government with the MB winning the majority vote. However, the MB began to curtail freedoms and stuff government positions with their followers. Sort of like Hamas after they won their elections. The people demonstrated by the millions and started to reject their hold on power.

    I was all for the MB because they were elected. The military mucked it up by employing a coup. They should have required a new election.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 26, 2013, 2:42 pm
  30. Shoe’s on the Other Foot NewZ

    Hey GWB haters (and we now know who you are). Remember the pictures of Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war? And how this equated to the US “propping up” Saddan Hussein and his government? This photo caused all the arabists, liberals and conspiracy theorists to believe GWB really loved Saddam and supported him.

    Now the shoe is on the other foot. The conspiracy theorists are hereby permitted to write Terabytes on the following subjects:

    By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Kerry has held up Syria as a country that could bring peace and stability to the region. He predicted the now-disgraced regime of President Bashar Assad would pursue a legitimate relationship with the United States.

    Those words are certain to draw scrutiny at his confirmation hearing for secretary of state as the Mideast ruler’s brutal crackdown has plunged the country into months of civil war.

    Conservative websites have mocked the relationship as a Kerry-Assad bromance, seizing on the comments.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/kerry-frequent-visitor-syrian-dictator-bashar-al-assad_690885.html

    Even though it’s August of 2013, Hillary Clinton’s possible 2016 presidential bid has already been heavily hyped by journalists. Yet, it seems that these same reporters aren’t interested in exploring aspects of Clinton’s job as Secretary of State. One such comment not getting attention is her 2011 labeling of Bashar al-Assad, the man almost certainly behind a devastating chemical weapons attack, as a “reformer.” Between 500 and 1000 people are dead after last week’s gassing.

    On the March 27, 2011, Clinton insisted, “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” (The Washington Post gave this remark three Pinocchios. Clinton later backtracked.) Yet, ABC, NBC and CBS have not reexamined the comments in the wake of the attack or its accuracy.

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2013/08/26/following-syrias-devastating-chemical-weapons-attack-will-media-reme

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 26, 2013, 3:36 pm
  31. Dear QN, Any chance we can get an overview of good blogs/analysis on Lebanese/Syrian politics? Not sure if you did one before but could be time for an update perhaps.

    Posted by Tarek | August 26, 2013, 4:02 pm
  32. QN:

    Majority of Americans etc… Little hyperbole no!. Most Americans can’t spell war criminal much less define it. Most Americans in academia, well known for their hard left tendencies yes. And they are a minority of the population at large.

    Posted by Paul Matuk | August 26, 2013, 5:43 pm
  33. There are plenty of Americans who aren’t in academia and who are left leaning, or at the very least supportive of President Obama. I find it hard to believe the 51% or so of the population who voted for him in 2012 were all academics…

    I do agree that the large majority of Americans probably have very little interest or knowledge of war crimes or of much that goes on in US foreign policy. But that’s a different matter.

    Your statement itself about academia is pretty heavy on the hyperbole, don’t you think?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 26, 2013, 6:29 pm
  34. AP: Your standards are Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights?

    But not everyone on the Anti-Assad camp are for these things, and yet you support them. How do you reconcile the issue?

    Posted by Gabriel | August 26, 2013, 6:34 pm
  35. (and while on topic)… I apologize I haven’t been following this blog for quite a few months, so I’m not sure if you’ve already opined on this or not:-

    What do you make of the US administration’s position on Egypt?

    Posted by Gabriel | August 26, 2013, 6:36 pm
  36. QN:

    You can smile politely and move on willy nilly. But at the end of the day, Abu Samir and Abu Michel have to live together. Isn’t that the crux of the issue? Tremendous polarization? And how do you “unpolarize” if all you do is smile politely and move on?

    Sometimes, it’s refreshing to see Hassan Nasrallah come out and say what he said, a la, “If today we have 100 people in Syria, tomorrow we will have 200, and if it’s 500, tomorrow it will be 1000!… Yadda Yadda”.

    Yes he thunk it, and unfortunately it took a bomb in his hood to make him actually say it.

    Maybe HA doesn’t really mind a few bombs in Sunni areas to ruffle feathers. And maybe the Takfiris don’t mind a few bombs in Dahyeh to ruffle some feathers there. Maybe they’re getting a kick out of the whole thing.

    That’s the reality. Unspoken truths/opinions sometimes get spoken when a bomb goes off. And when the bombs don’t go off, all we have is a bunch of people pretending to take the high road!

    Posted by Gabriel | August 26, 2013, 6:51 pm
  37. AP:

    Bashar doesn’t have chemical weapons much as Saddam did not :). Don’t rush to crucify the lad. The Americans may rush into Syria only to discover too late that the whole thing was a ruse. Imagine then what would happen, you’d have earned Lally’s mockery for many QN posts to come!

    What oh what would you do then?

    Posted by Gabriel | August 26, 2013, 6:56 pm
  38. But not everyone on the Anti-Assad camp are for these things, and yet you support them. How do you reconcile the issue?

    Gabriel,

    Good question. My motives are western, liberal, and tolerant. If a schmuck (using this word instead of the funny “hat” phrase that the owner here doesn’t like) hates Assad because he isn’t religious enough or his God is different than I say fine. We will both support deposing Assad, but I would put him on notice that I would only support a liberal democracy. If the majority of the voters want muslim holidays, and sabbath on Fridays, etc that is no consequence. However, I could only support equal rights for all people including non-muslims.

    What do you make of the US administration’s position on Egypt?

    Generally I think Obama, Daniel Pipes, and John Bolton (the 3 people I follow the most) are claiming to know what is best for the US, but if you listen to them carefully, they are rather short on clear advice. None of these people have a “silver bullet” or a simple answer on how to handle the “arab spring”.

    That being said, I think Obama was right to support free elections in Egypt and to support the winner, the MB. However, when things started falling apart and the multi-million demonstration ensued, I think Obama should have strongly spoken abut a RE-ELECTION. That is consistent with our democratic values. So I would have been as equally critical of the MB at that point as with the Egyptian military.

    I was against his apologetic speech in Egypt when he first took office. I am against his Israel-Palestine push (I think he needs to leave the two parties alone because the WANT the status quo). And I am against his softball policies with the remaining despots in the ME. Just MHO.

    Don’t rush to crucify the lad. The Americans may rush into Syria only to discover too late that the whole thing was a ruse.

    Gabriel,

    People can scream “ruse” from now to doomsday. It just goes to show you that arabs love their despot leaders. As far as I’m concerned, the chemical weapons issue (yaani “the red line”) is what got our military on the war-path to depose Saddam and now, perhaps, Assad (I seriously doubt this). Saddam killed about 5000 in Halabja and Assad a thousand or so. Outside of these murders then each killed over 100,000 people using “conventional weapons” so I would have preferred the West when in years sooner in each case.

    Hope this makes sense. Tell Lally that I respect her for being a true muqawamista to the Hezbo, Syrian, Iranian, and Pali freedom fighters, and perhaps one day, Lally will get Hannan Ashwari’s autograph on her AK-47.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 26, 2013, 7:39 pm
  39. Gabriel,

    But Bashar did admit he had chemical weapons and threatened to use it if “foreign”(not be confused with brotherly HA militia) forces invaded…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/world/middleeast/chemical-weapons-wont-be-used-in-rebellion-syria-says.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Now what?

    Posted by danny | August 26, 2013, 7:41 pm
  40. Danny, the article says…

    “Any stock of W.M.D. or unconventional weapons that the Syrian Army possesses will never, never be used against the Syrian people or civilians during this crisis, under any circumstances,”

    Now that’s not an admission that the S.A.R has any WMDs :). Maybe Bashar, like Saddam, was just pulling a scare tactic 🙂 [In the case of Iraq, to deter “Iran”]

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/52113.pdf

    Mr Makdissi simply states that “any stock the Syrians have will never be used against the Syrian people.

    Now suppose Bashar did have chemical weapons, do you suppose Anderson Cooper may prove that he got part of his stockpile from Saddam, thereby rubbishing the “old news” that Iraq never ever did ever have any Chemical weapons?

    😉

    Posted by Gabriel | August 26, 2013, 8:56 pm
  41. QN:

    ” My rule is to ask the person to engage in a thought experiment. All I want to know is whether they are hard-wired to defend their “good guys” at any cost, or if their support is based on some kind of standard. Why bother arguing over who committed such-and-such a crime if it’s only a crime when one side commits it?”

    My experience of the world is the vast swath of humanity is hardwired to defend “their guy” whether he is good or not. “Standards” are, in practice, situational and fungible.

    But then, why not apply your test to those on team QN first to see if they can pass it? Then take it beta….)

    “Why bother arguing…..if it’s only a crime when one side commits it?” Jury nullification?

    Posted by lally | August 27, 2013, 12:33 am
  42. Naughty Gabe……

    I’ll decline the offer of the AK47 thanks ever so. Now, one of those little pistolas with a laser sight….

    Posted by lally | August 27, 2013, 12:36 am
  43. Anderson Cooper and Geraldo Rivera looking for the lost link… 😀
    What’s next pussycat? It seems eons ago Mr. AIG was hell bent against helping out the Syrians (docile rebels)…I wonder what kind of magical cure he will suggest knowing all too well that the man eater Jihadists are to benefit from the strike against Bashar’s arsenal.

    Posted by danny | August 27, 2013, 7:02 am
  44. Deja Vu

    Where else have we seen WMD initiating military action?

    In a land where over 100,000 have perished, 2 million have sought refuge, 2/3 of the population displaced, and complete villages and towns destroyed, I’d say the chemical weapons deaths are the least of all concerns.

    CW use only means it is finally time to act.

    What do you think? Please send your answer to: UNSC 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY Attn: Ban Ki-Moon

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 7:57 am
  45. Danny,

    Magical cure? In the middle east? If the Arab countries and people cannot solve their own problems, no one else will solve it for them. As for the rest of us, we just put on more plastic knowing full well it will be needed when the shit hits the fan as it inevitably will.

    It has finally dawned on the Syrian regime that they cannot sustain the fighting for years and that they must get some kind of victory much quicker. So they gambled and used chemical weapons to gauge the response of the West. They really forced Obama’s hand. The West has to send a strong enough message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated but not so strong as to change the balance of power on the ground significantly. Maybe, just maybe, when all is said and done both sides will accept that victory on the battlefield for either side is not just impossible but also undesirable for most Syrians. That could lead to some kind of ceasefire and or at least much less intense fighting and the acceptance of the de facto partition of Syria. Not a great solution by any means, but at least much less people will die or suffer.

    Posted by AIG | August 27, 2013, 10:32 am
  46. The West has to send a strong enough message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated but not so strong as to change the balance of power on the ground significantly.

    AIG,

    Why is this so important? CHANGE the balance of power!

    Let the remaining groups would vie for power along with foreign fighters. We can send weapons to groups seeking democracy and hope that radical elements will return to their jobs selling shoes.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 10:45 am
  47. AP,

    We can hope for many things, just like Bush did when he pressed for elections in the Palestinian territories and we got Hamas in power. Democracy is not the same as one time democratic elections. Aren’t you convinced of that by now looking at the results of the Arab spring? Let’s not “hope”. Let’s plan and expect the worst.

    I think that it is very likely that minorities in Syria will be massacred if the jihadists prevail. Do we want that? Let’s face it, there is not going to be a democracy in Syria whatever the West does. I think that is obvious by now and hoping otherwise is courting disaster. The best course of action is as I outlined above. Get both sides to expend their energy and reluctantly accept a ceasefire and a de facto partition. Then the West can slowly (over many years) help non-Assad areas and hope that moderates prevail there.

    Posted by AIG | August 27, 2013, 11:04 am
  48. Get both sides to expend their energy and reluctantly accept a ceasefire and a de facto partition.

    AIG,

    I agree with you. Except the two sides would now be moderate FSA forces vs. imported jihadists. At least the Baathists and Assad would be out of the equation. Of course, KSA and Jordan would arm the FSA forces.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 11:16 am
  49. If you combine both your (AP & AIG) ideas we will get there. There s to be a very strong message; such as destroying some of Syria’s fixed wing warplanes and destruction of ammunition depots. However; it has to be strong enough to freeze Bashar’s and HA mass murderers in their tracks. As in any other civil conflict; bot sides ave to be fatigued and at stalemate to sit down to talks. Winners don’t negotiate.

    The message has to backed up by establishment of safe havens within Syria to house their refugees.
    If thersponse is meek; US will be drawn into a long war.Shock and Awe…

    Posted by danny | August 27, 2013, 11:52 am
  50. sorry for the typos… 😦

    Posted by danny | August 27, 2013, 11:53 am
  51. AP,

    Unfortunately, that is not true. There is no way bombing from the air can get rid of Assad. And even if it were possible, you would be destroying with the regime all the institutions that are functioning in Syria and for example provide millions of Syrians with salaries. That is a great way to get another Somalia. And if you are interested in democracy, that is not what most Syrians want either. They prefer a more orderly transition that does not compromise their state and guarantee making it a hell hole for decades.

    Posted by AIG | August 27, 2013, 11:54 am
  52. There is no way bombing from the air can get rid of Assad.

    AIG,

    Obama could have wiped out the whole Baathist party if they bombed the Opera where they met a year or so ago. I think it is possible to track Assad’s location fairly easily with today’s technology and intelligence. Certainly we know where his military assets are.

    And even if it were possible, you would be destroying with the regime all the institutions that are functioning in Syria and for example provide millions of Syrians with salaries.

    No, just focus on military bases, aircraft, weapons depots, etc.

    And if you are interested in democracy, that is not what most Syrians want either. They prefer a more orderly transition that does not compromise their state and guarantee making it a hell hole for decades.

    No one knows what the Syrians want. They’ve never voted. But because freedom and democracy are a basic human right, I’m guessing they want it. I understand it will take a long time, that is why we should start now and not 10 years from now. Take Israel’s foreign aid and give it to the FSA.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 1:10 pm
  53. Knowing Assad will not dare retaliate directly or hit Israel, his only place to avenge will be in or thru Lebanon..SNAFU

    Posted by Vulcan | August 27, 2013, 2:54 pm
  54. What Vulcan said.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 27, 2013, 4:18 pm
  55. Sure. Sounds perfectly logical that Assad would get some payback by attacking some Lebanese groups…… Hezbollah and an Alawite stronghold would be excellent targets!!!

    Posted by lally | August 27, 2013, 6:12 pm
  56. Lally,

    Now you and Elias can indict the Obama Administration for their false flag operation and lying to the he American people.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 6:43 pm
  57. Well, this whole punitive military attack against Syria is going to change the whole military posture of the Syrian government. Syria is now going to target Israel.

    Yikes!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 9:41 pm
  58. I post randomly here so here is my response to Brad V. I don’t know where you live but to say that my comment about Academia being leftist is hyperbolic is well,… short sighted. Google, Obama and college professors, or Obama and university voters etc. The point I was making was to push back on Elias’ supposition that most americans think Bush is a war criminal. Most academics in the liberal arts at Brown might think so. That does not translate to most americans. As to your point of 51 % of americans voted for Obama. So what. are you saying they all think Bush was war criminal.

    Posted by Paul Matuk | August 27, 2013, 9:57 pm
  59. Paul Matuk,

    Don’t worry. Arabists HAVE to blame George W. Bush. Who else are they going to blame? Believe it or not, Obama will be the next war criminal.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 27, 2013, 10:23 pm
  60. Apparently Biden is certain, and without doubt, that Syria used Chemical weapons

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23859892

    I wonder if he’s as certain as Powell was that Saddam had chemical weapons!

    I guess we’ll have to wait for Regime Change to find out.

    Posted by Gabriel | August 28, 2013, 1:59 am
  61. WTF is the difference between civilians dying of missiles from the air, and missiles laden with chemicals from the air…..

    Posted by Maverick | August 28, 2013, 3:46 am
  62. I wonder if he’s as certain as Powell was that Saddam had chemical weapons!

    Gabriel,

    Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people in 1988 in Halabja. Does that count?

    But I agree with Maverick. For some people chemical weapons use is somehow unthinkable, so suddenly, after hundreds of thousands die from bullets and bombs, we take notice.

    What is wrong with that picture?

    I understand CW use is a heinous crime and is a great danger, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    The bottom line is, somehow the world community needs a way to intervene when a country in held hostage by a billionaire retard and his family.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 28, 2013, 6:49 am
  63. Maverik,

    There is a difference. Chemical weapons have the potential to kill many more people, much more cheaply and quickly than conventional weapons. You have to have a line somewhere. Perhaps your line is that no weapons should be allowed, but that is not realistic. But just because some ideal line is not attainable does not mean that there should be no line at all.

    Posted by AIG | August 28, 2013, 9:56 am
  64. AP:-

    Saddam used Chemical weapons in Halabja? He only had them and used them because of the war criminals in the US :). Or isn’t that how the story goes?

    Maverick:

    As a philosopher may point out and boy oh boy do I like to Itfalsaf bala ta3me… isn’t that the sort of argument used by proponents of the Gun Lobby in the US? Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Who can contest the argument?

    Either way, people are dead in the end.

    Yet, the question of “Chemical Weapons” appears to be a redline. So much so apparently there is talk of tabling all measures to “protect civilians”.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23864124

    It is a little ironic, is it not?

    The fixation on the mantra “Bush Lied, People Died” is used to distract people from the core issue.

    Years from now (if and when Cameron gets his wish), when another assault on Western interventionism will no doubt be launched… people will talk about Syria the way they talk about America in Afghanistan in the 80s.

    Guess who the suckers supported.

    Or is it.. Guess what plans the Evil Calculating Imperialists dreamt up for Syria.

    It’s all a toss-up really… which brings us back full circle to that not so hypothetical argument that QN started this blog post with.

    Abu Samir and Abu Michel. They have their ideas. And they’re sticking with them.

    Posted by Gabriel | August 28, 2013, 11:52 am
  65. Re AIG’s point about moral vs. epistemological standards:

    That’s not quite what is at issue for me in this case, although I am interested in different standards of evidence as you and Lally discussed. What I’m talking about here are people who are so entrenched in their glorification of one or another political party/axis that they assume that even their most atrocious acts had to be have been justified if they committed them. I have actually been told by some people that if Hizbullah killed Hariri then he obviously deserved it, and if al-Mustaqbal was really funding Fatah al-Islam they obviously had a good reason, etc.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 28, 2013, 12:29 pm
  66. QN,

    Thanks! The debate in the comments aside, for somebody actually living in Leb the advice is certainly useful. I retreated from all political discussion on the subject, or at least relegated myself to the position of mere listener for the last year because of the impossibility (in most cases) to go beyond entrenched positions.
    Seems like a goodway to gauge where one’s energy is spent usefully, walking out having gained/learned something, engaged in conversation, or the likes, rather than be bombared with infinitely repetitious speculation (from either side that is).

    Posted by Winston Smith | September 23, 2013, 8:02 am

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