Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Primates Muddling Through

Digby pasted the following yesterday, from the Atlantic article by James Fallows:

Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well. But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it.

In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”

Heard anything about this in your usual news reporting of Syria? I hadn't.

The case for our deeper intrusion into this fresh new middle-eastern tragedy (as opposed to the old, stale tragedies of Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, etc.) seems to be that if we don't make some kind of "statement" re Assad's use of chemical weapons, other countries will think they can use them too.


Seems to me Mr. Obama has an opportunity, since after all he's done with being a politician, to step out of this box and get real. Instead, he's chosen to make an abstract point and reinforce the long-broken advice and consent feature of our legislative branch, when it comes to killing foreign humans. That's probably a good thing, given the long history of non-war wars we've been waging--except for the fact that our legislative branch is now significantly taken over by seriously stupid, racist neo-fascists who in any context other than an Obama Presidency are very much for a fully militarized foreign policy. Tossing these people some power, even if it is the constitutional thing to do. I don't know.

Meanwhile, the fact remains that Syria is a raging multi-faceted civil war, and Mr. Obama is getting barked out of the tree.

Charlie Pierce makes some good points over on his blog. As usual. Shiela O'Malley commemorates the start of the Second World War with a long essay on the invasion of Poland in 1939. If you want to see a movie with the perfect moment of German exceptionalism, you couldn't do better than The Young Lions, the scene with Maxmillian Schell and Marlon Brando standing in Paris after their successful invasion is complete. Then watch Army of Shadows, dwelling on the necessary assassination of Simon Signoret.

You might read this too:

Fall's on the way here. The biting insects are in a frenzy, but it's very pretty through the window. Thus doth the micro mirror the macro.


Update from Juan Cole:

By striking Syria, Obama has all but guaranteed that a negotiated solution becomes impossible for years to come. In the absence of serious negotiations, the civil war will continue and likely get worse. The US should give serious thought to what the likely actual (as opposed to ideal) reaction in Syria will be to the landing of a few cruise missiles. The anti-regime elements will celebrate, convinced that it will all be over quickly if the US gets involved. The last thing they will want will be to negotiate with the regime.

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