/ If someone is Syria has broken international law...

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Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
... by using internationally outlawed chemical weapons, shouldn't the correct response be a thorough investigation, leading to trial at the Hague, in absentia if necessary? Who could argue with that (except the US of course, as they're not signatories to the War Crimes legislation for sadly obvious reasons...) It would hurt too: 'Daddy, daddy, we can't we go on holiday to Monaco with all our other friends?' 'Because Daddy is a convicted war criminal son, and will get locked up if he sets foot outside of Syria.'

How anyone can contemplate the alternative - lobbing vast quantities of high explosive at highly populated areas to 'teach them a lesson' - other than from reasons of personal inadequacy is quite beyond me.
balmybaldwin - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Right, because assad will obviously come to the border with his hands held out for the cuffs?
IainRUK - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: True.. but first the use of chemical weapons needs to stop.. and force may be the only option. Its not about 'teaching them a lesson'. Its about stopping whole towns being murdered whilst they sleep..
woolsack - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: Does the timing of this discovery have anything to do with the impending debt crisis looming in the US in October?
woolsack - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> Its about stopping whole towns being murdered whilst they sleep..

As opposed to keeping them awake for days when the Yanks do it?
Eric9Points - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Because you want to make sure they don't do it again?

You feel it would be acceptable to have a thorough investigation leading to perhaps 6 months of work for the lawyers to prepare their cases followed by a trial lasting several weeks which results in a verdict that means that that person can't leave their own country?

Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: Either we think the rule of law is worth upholding or we don't.

Bombing a bunch of civilians because of what their leaders may or may not have been responsible for doesn't seem to achieve very much at all.

And yes, I think that leaders not only enjoy power, they enjoy the benefits - the travel, the kudos, the respect, the international stage. They also need to be seen to retain these to maintain their position. If these are withdrawn in due course because of UN actions then that will hurt. Not as much as being gassed, obviously, but it might be a better solution in the long term, give more pause for thought. Even b*stards like Assad want respect.

It was working with Gaddafy, it might even have worked with Saddam.
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: ... and it certainly worked with the IRA.
tony on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to woolsack:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward) Does the timing of this discovery have anything to do with the impending debt crisis looming in the US in October?

No. The US muddles through its debt ceiling negotiations. It did last year and the year before - it's a way of life for them.
Skyfall - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> ... and it certainly worked with the IRA.

what?

the thing that worked with the IRA was more or less defeating them militarily and making them realise the only way they would win was to stop bombing and appeal for votes through a political process. Yes, there is a debate about how "defeated" they really were but special forces attacks and infiltration generally had meant that they had become much less effective and were losing people rapidly.
Al Evans on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: Yeh, we should have just let Hitler get on with it, then taken him to trial after he'd finished.
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans: Well that closes down that line of argument, doesn't it. Very helpful.

FWIW - no one knows who was responsible for the gas attack, there are pretty nasty people on all sides of the conflict. To continue with your utterly stupid analogy - would you have sided with Japan if they had chosen to take against Hitler? Because that's what is being proposed here - helping Al Queda and all sorts of fundamentalist scum by giving Assad, (or more accurately Syrian civilians), a good kicking.
David Martin - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

Unfortunately the situation there was rather different.

Here we aren't even too sure who the good and bad guys are any more, and mission creep will be unavoidable. Once we start bombing to eradicate chemical weapons (how we do that I'm not sure) when do we stop? I can't see it doing anything but involving us in full-scale war in opposition to Assad (and therefore in aid of the plethora of rebel groups).

Is that what we really want?

Intervening to removal chemical weapons is just and right. We just need to be sure that it is actually possible. If it isn't, "going in anyway" just to do something is more likely to be the worst option.
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to David Martin: '"going in anyway" just to do something '

That's exactly what all the talk seems to be.
Trangia - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward) Yeh, we should have just let Hitler get on with it, then taken him to trial after he'd finished.

Valid point
Skyfall - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

It is being reported - though question the sources - that the US intercepted phone calls in Syria which prove that the Gov't forces did launch the chemical attack. If this is correct, then it does seem fair and legal to try to stop this happening again (either to their own citizens or others). One question apparently raised by the intercepted call is whether this was authorised by Assad. If it isn't, then giving Assad a good kicking may not help that much (eg. if he doesn't or can't actually exercise close control of the military).

In this situation, it strikes me that the only way to do something effective is to go in on the ground and remove the chemical weapons. Very hard to achieve in practice (I don't suppose a couple of black hawks at the dead of night will suffice!) and clearly there is no appetite for a boots on the ground war.

Hence I do sort of agree with you that launching a cruise missile attack is probably pretty pointless, other than be seen to be doing "something".

If it can be proven, by a combination of UN inspectors and good intelligence info, I'd have thought a much better option is to get Russia to exert real pressure on Assad. Even China are suggesting this might be an option if proof can be made available.
Trangia - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> ...
>
> How anyone can contemplate the alternative - lobbing vast quantities of high explosive at highly populated areas to 'teach them a lesson' - other than from reasons of personal inadequacy is quite beyond me.

Who has suggested that's the alternative? Hasn't it occured to you that air strikes, if sanctioned, will be against identified targets such a chemical weapon stock piles, production plants and weapons systems capable of delivering chemical weapons?

I don't believe it's a matter of "teaching a lesson", it's to try and prevent further chemical weapon attrocieties.

"All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing"
Bob Hughes - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward)
> [...]
>
chemical weapon stock piles, production plants and weapons systems capable of delivering chemical weapons?
>

Wouldn't bombing a chemical weapons stockpile be counter-productive?
Skyfall - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:

> Hasn't it occured to you that air strikes, if sanctioned, will be against identified targets such a chemical weapon stock piles

That could be a bit of an own goal don't you think?
Rob Exile Ward on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia: It's occurred to me that military have been promising surgical strikes with 'limited collateral damage' since they first starting lobbing rocks in the stone age. They couldn't deliver then and they can't now - that is the nature of war.

'will be against identified targets such a chemical weapon stock piles, production plants and weapons systems capable of delivering chemical weapons?' Do you think Assad publishes the GPS co-ordinates of these facilities? Or refrains from putting them in civilian areas? Get real.
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tony on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward)
> [...]
>
> Who has suggested that's the alternative? Hasn't it occured to you that air strikes, if sanctioned, will be against identified targets such a chemical weapon stock piles, production plants and weapons systems capable of delivering chemical weapons?

Might there not be a bit of a problem with air strikes on stockpiles of chemical weapons? I wouldn't have thought that a sudden release of poisonous gas was a very desirable outcome.
Sir Chasm - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia: What if the stock piles, production plants and weapons systems are in areas of population? How people are we prepared to kill?

"All concerns of men go wrong when they wish to cure evil with evil"
Trangia - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to tony:

I'm not a chemist so I have no idea if there any way of nutralising sarin with air strikes, but certainly destroying production plants and delivery systems seem options.
mgco3 - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

Just a 'slight' difference with Hitler. Uncle Adolf tried to go worldwide with his madness and made no attempt to hide what he was doing.

Assad is playing in his own sandpit. And we have still to see ANY proof that it was his forces and not one of the many opposing factions that used chemical weapons.
Enty - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to tony)
>
> I'm not a chemist so I have no idea if there any way of nutralising sarin with air strikes, but certainly destroying production plants and delivery systems seem options.

An expert on tv last night said that it would take so much high explosive to destroy the stocks without it leaking that the collatoral damage would be unacceptable.

E
tony on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to tony)
>
> I'm not a chemist so I have no idea if there any way of nutralising sarin with air strikes, but certainly destroying production plants and delivery systems seem options.

Sorry, but I don't see how they are useful options. Production plants will probably contain amounts of the gas, so destroying them will probably release gas. Delivery systems may well be loaded with missiles armed with the gas, so we have the same problem.
Michael Ryan - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal

http:// www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/opinion/bomb-syria-even-if-it-is-illegal.html?hp&_r=0
jkarran - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Skyfall:

> It is being reported - though question the sources - that the US intercepted phone calls in Syria which prove that the Gov't forces did launch the chemical attack. If this is correct, then it does seem fair and legal to try to stop this happening again (either to their own citizens or others). One question apparently raised by the intercepted call is whether this was authorised by Assad. If it isn't, then giving Assad a good kicking may not help that much (eg. if he doesn't or can't actually exercise close control of the military).
> ...
> In this situation, it strikes me that the only way to do something effective is to go in on the ground and remove the chemical weapons. Very hard to achieve in practice...

The unfolding story does make a bit more sense in light of that information though as you say I'd be very wary of the source and the intentions behind the leak/release of that information.

If Assad is in imminent danger of losing control of his chemical arsenal then I can see why there would be a sudden push to intervene. What I can't see being very popular with the public is that the intervention may well be designed to put control of the weapons back into Assad's hands. 'We' can't take, destroy or control them remotely or by invasion and there is no single unified rebel force with which we have a relationship that capable of doing it yet someone has to take control. I presume Russia won't despite the risk they'll end up on the streets of Moscow. Assad appears at the moment to be the only option.

Of course it may have nothing to do with WMD and we're yet again being spun a line to get us behind someone's pet project just long enough for it to gather unstoppable momentum... Who knows.

> If it can be proven, by a combination of UN inspectors and good intelligence info, I'd have thought a much better option is to get Russia to exert real pressure on Assad. Even China are suggesting this might be an option if proof can be made available.

That looks like the best option so long as there is still time to cool things down and seek a political settlement before weapons start disappearing to fund the retirement of senior regime commanders. Of course it also assumes that Russia can be persuaded to step up which currently seems unlikely, they still seem to be backing Assad to win.

jk
Slugain Howff - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

If we wade in again maybe we'll find Tony Blair's weapons of mass destruction. That was a sound plan too!!!
MG - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to jkarran: What you suggest does make some sense, however, if the fear really is the risk of weapons getting in to the wrong hands, why is the case not being made in those terms? Wouldn't Russia and even China be concerned about that?
Trangia - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to tony:

Which leaves the Syrian airforce (the main delivery system) as the prime target. Ie it's Command and control system, the airfields and the aircraft themselves. The colateral damage from such an action would be a big shift in the balance of power to the rebels, but it's a more aceptable alternative than killing civilians
jkarran - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to MG:

I don't know. Harder to get the public behind that sort of narrative perhaps after the Iraq/Blair debacle? Maybe it's just considered too frightening?

I suspect a lot of nations with a sectarian or jihadi security problem, Russia included are currently monitoring the proliferation threat very closely indeed.

jk
Skyfall - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Trangia:

> Which leaves the Syrian airforce (the main delivery system) as the prime target. Ie it's Command and control system, the airfields and the aircraft themselves.

You could be right but I am doubtful a cruise missile strike alone would achieve anything close to that. I suspect it would require a lot of coalition aircraft in the skies over Syria and they are probably reluctant to do that due to Russian made ground to air missiles etc. Still, if it looks on the cards, I think we would get advance warning of it by seeing the movement of a lot of UK/French aircraft in that direction to support (if only morally) the US. Which would make it all a bit reminiscent of Libya...
Dauphin - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Skyfall:

Already happening. Lots of activity in Akrotiri, French carrier group is in the med.

D
Jimbo W on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

This is all so incredibly depressing! Makes me think that John Gray, as pessimistic as people accuse him of being, is right to suggest that there is such consistency in history that we are condemned to be subject to it, and repeat it.
Skyfall - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Dauphin:

Do "we" (UK) have many aircraft in Cyprus? I'm assuming we'd see a lot of movement from the UK in that direction if it looks imminent. Would be interesting if Syria decided to take the fight to us as it were. Israel might not be the only ones dishing out gasmasks; any helpful nations around the Med might be a little concerned.
Jimbo W on 28 Aug 2013
Jim C - on 28 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> ... by using internationally outlawed chemical weapons, shouldn't the correct response be a thorough investigation, leading to trial at the Hague, in absentia if necessary? Who could argue with that (except the US of course, as they're not signatories to the War Crimes legislation ...

Chemical weapons may be seen by 'us' as 'internationally outlawed', but Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
(though it is a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits the FIRST USE of chemical weapons. )
andrewmcleod - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Those who argue that we should not get involved have forgotten, or do not know, that we are already involved and at least partly responsible. The current layout of the Middle East is a remnant of our centuries of interference: drawing borders without regard to cultural divisions, supporting dictators and juntas where it suited us, supplying weapons and formenting hate as proxy forces against the Soviets and theocracies, allying ourselves with countries that deny even the most basic human rights, and dealing with and propping up corrupt governments by our constant demand for oil. So it is a bit late to argue that we shouldn't get involved...

What we decide to do however is still up for debate.
Ridge - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward)
>
> Those who argue that we should not get involved have forgotten, or do not know, that we are already involved and at least partly responsible. The current layout of the Middle East is a remnant of our centuries of interference: drawing borders without regard to cultural divisions, supporting dictators and juntas where it suited us, supplying weapons etc, etc, etc...

All the more reason to stop bombing the f*ck out of the region and creating more chaos in the future.
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Simon4 - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Those who argue that we should not get involved have forgotten, or do not know, that we are already involved and at least partly responsible.

At best a half truth, and in any case irrelevant.

Every border in the Fertile Crescent is the result of war, there were vicious wars of extermination and dispossession there long before we had anything to do with the place and will probably be far into the future. Indeed it is hard to think of any international border that was not the result of a war, even if that war is now long in the past.

When "WE" were calling the shots, we had an empire on which the sun never set. That empire is long gone, while the American empire is fading fast. It is likely that the Chinese empire that may replace the Americans as the dominant world power will cause all the current knee-jerk anti-Americans to remember American dominance longingly as a time of freedom and open-ness.

> So it is a bit late to argue that we shouldn't get involved...

On the contrary, it is very easy to argue that the world has changed, changed utterly, and our imperial past is as relevant to the appropriate current action as last year's snow. Those who do not remember the past may be compelled to repeat it, but those who are obsessed with it are trapped in it. Playing the "imperial guilt" card has no bearing on the current situation, not least because it is only the self-loathing, Britain-hating pseudo-intellectuals who feel it. Yesterday has indeed gone, for better or worse. The most involved Empire in the region was in any case the Ottoman Empire, do you seriously suggest that they should become a bigger player again? They are fomenting enough trouble on the fringes as it is.

Even when we had an empire, it was brought down by imperial overstretch - even possessing a vast empire we could not control events, what chance do we have now? The imperial resources that we had then are long gone, we do not have the capability to resolve this crisis, if it is even resolvable. We cannot solve Syria (or Egypt, or any other place in turmoil), we can only embroil ourselves.

Best to stay out, perhaps helping slightly at the margins.
kipper12 - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to Jim C:
> (In reply to Rob Exile Ward)
> [...]
>
> Chemical weapons may be seen by 'us' as 'internationally outlawed', but Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
> (though it is a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits the FIRST USE of chemical weapons. )

Doesnt the Geneva Protocol also say something about not targeting civilians with conventional wepons too, something that both sides are guilty of.
andrewmcleod - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to Simon4:
> When "WE" were calling the shots, we had an empire on which the sun never set. That empire is long gone, [...]

Actually...
http://what-if.xkcd.com/48
(I also quite like this bit from Wikipedia - 'W. B. Brown of New Jersey quipped that the reason the sun never set upon the Empire was that God did not trust the British in the dark')

But more seriously, 'not interfering' is the same as 'doing nothing'. We have the power to intervene; we should have an honest discussion about what honestly is the best thing to do instead of assuming that we will definitely make things worse. It may be so, but I am unconvinced.

Something like 100,000 people have died in Syria. This makes it completely different to Afghanistan and Iraq - they may also have been ruled by very bad people, but were not currently fighting a civil war when we mounted full-scale invasions. A more limited intervention, aimed at limiting the worst of the violence, will not necessarily have the same effect. We also seem to have got a lot better at 'surgical strikes' since the ones in Afghanistan which were largely a joke.

By comparison Libya seems to be a success story of sorts (at least compared to Iraq and Afghanistan).
Eric9Points - on 29 Aug 2013
In reply to kipper12:
> (In reply to Jim C)
> [...]
>
> Doesnt the Geneva Protocol also say something about not targeting civilians with conventional wepons too, something that both sides are guilty of.

The Geneva convention is a bit equivocal about this IIRC, you can look it up on Google, but yes you aren't allowed to slaughter civilians.

Assad is already under investigation about these sorts of abuses.

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