Archive for August 29, 2013

Cruising the road to Damascus – at any cost.


The leaders of the USA, UK and France seem determined to take “surgical” action in Syria, probably by using precisely targeted cruise missiles.


In the almost 3 years of the Syrian civil war, over 100 000 people have been killed, large areas of the country reduced to rubble, neighbouring countries burdened with huge waves of refugees. Bombings in Lebanon and Iraq may be a direct result of the conflict. The involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in support of the Syrian government is both worrying and a further complication.

But with all that, the Western powers have been reluctant to get involved in what is still a civil war, an internal problem.

Until this week when 350 people were killed in a chemical warfare bombardment blamed on the Syrian government.

As yet, no convincing evidence that government forces were responsible or conclusions on the exact chemical used have been produced.

Russia and China are predictably vetoing any UN resolutions to use force against the Syrian Government, supporting their argument by allegations that it may have been the Syrian opposition attempting to force an “own goal” on the government.

Any escalation in the conflict increases the threat to our two most important allies in the region, Israel and Turkey,  but a chemical attack in Damascus in itself, does not dramatically increase that threat.

As awful and inexcusable the use of chemical weapons may be, and as much as we might regret the loss of hundreds more lives last week, the threat to the West or world peace has not been increased by these events.

Why then do we want to get involved? Have we not learned the lessons from Iraq? When the justification for the invasion was later found to be false. Or Afghanistan, when having quickly defeated the enemy, we attempted the impossible task of installing democracy in an undemocratic part of the world, lengthened our involvement by years at huge cost. That cost measured in hundreds of our soldier’s lives and billions of dollars and pounds of taxpayers hard-earned cash.

Have we forgotten Egypt where by abandoning an ally, and tacitly supporting a revolution, we ended up with a ruler far more dangerous, another coup and now a country in turmoil with a wrecked economy.

Why then are our leaders so determined to get involved in Syria after a comparatively small increase in casualties?

Is it really because the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable? Large scale killing of civilians is surely unacceptable with any type of weapons.

Is there a bigger threat to Israel, Turkey and perhaps Jordan that we are not being told about?

Is Iran about to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike?

Do President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron just want to irritate the Russians and Chinese?

Or is it once again an example of Western arrogance and hypocrisy, trying to impose our standards on people who march to the beat of a very different drummer?

Before this incident, it looked as if the Assad government was gaining control over larger areas of Syria, perhaps turning the tide and winning the war.  It could be argued that the quickest way to reduce the horrendous casualty rate, stop the destruction of infrastructure and reverse the flood of refugees would be to let the government win the war by what ever means it has at its disposal.

After all we justified dropping atomic bombs on Japan as the best way to end WW11 despite the huge loss of life.

I am not an apologist for Assad, I would be happy to see him removed from power and made to pay for his sins, however deciding on who should rule Syria is a matter for the Syrians not us.

We should beware of assisting in his removal and his replacement by a more anti-Western ruler. We don’t need to risk the lives of our troops in another un-winnable war when that war, disastrous as it may be for Syrians, poses little threat to our own security.

What are your thoughts?


The wheel turns in Egypt


Headline yesterday “Mubarak to be released from prison”.

Isn’t that amazing, it’s taken two years for the wheel to come almost full circle. Given Mubarak’s poor health and advanced age, he is unlikely to make any sort of political comeback.

When I wrote about the Egypt and the law of unintended consequences on 10 July, the death toll in the unrest was around 50, now 6 weeks later it is over 1000.

My comment that the country would be better off and far fewer Egyptians dead if we had supported Mubarak instead of abandoning him is more relevant than ever.

There was a reason why Mubarak tried to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood taking power. The consequences of his overthrow are being measured by the body counts in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.

Other commentators estimate that only around 10% of the world’s population live under true democratic governments. I cannot confirm or dispute that estimate, but I am convinced that it is a minority, with the vast majority living under autocratic systems of varying degrees of oppression.

When the Arab spring has finally withered in the summer heat, we may well find that a long winter of discontent is the prelude to a return to the traditional systems of military or civilian dictatorships, monarchies or new variations of old regimes.

Also yesterday, large numbers of casualties in Damascus, Syria. Symptoms indicate poisoning, probably by some form of chemical warfare. Accusations of responsibility by both sides in the conflict.

Is this the Obama administration’s red-line? I somehow doubt it, I cannot believe the American people want to get dragged into another unwinnable Middle Eastern conflict.

If it escalates to pose a direct threat to Israel or Turkey, there might be some justification for action. While it remains a civil war, any Western involvement increases the danger of installing a more dangerous ruling party than the current one.

As sad as it is to see the death toll climbing in both conflicts, perhaps the West needs to curb its temptation to interfere and let the dramas play out as they have done for thousands of years.

It’s an interesting world.






Now if Zimbabwe had oil …….

Zimbabwean police beat protesters



















One of the most evil mass murderers in the world, Robert Mugabe appears to have rigged yet another election and condemned the impoverished and brutalised people of Zimbabwe to a further 5 years of misery – if he lives that long.

There has been enough coverage of the election to establish for those that are interested that there was no chance of this election being “free and fair”. Despite the pontificating of a the leader of hand-picked observers, a former leader of another corrupt and wretched African country and an indecent rush to congratulate Mugabe by his southern neighbour.

Botswana, a recipient of a wave of illegal immigrants forced to flee Zimbabwe by Mugabe’s policies, to its credit, the only country in the region with the moral fibre to call for an independent audit of the election results.

The opposition MDC has challenged the result in court, but with most of the electoral court judges appointed by Mugabe, it’s doubtful that the evidence of voters prevented from voting on a massive scale, voters bussed in from tribal areas to vote in urban, MDC dominated, constituencies and long dead voters voting for Mugabe, will count for much.

The Zimbabwe stock exchange fell by 11% on the first trading day after the results were announced. Another candidate for an appearance at The Hague, Minister of Justice Chinimasa was on TV threatening expropriation of all non-black (and non-party faithful) owned businesses.

A major bank’s shares plunged, most banks announced a freeze on new business loans and the few remaining commercial farmers are again under threat.

What does the rest of the world do? Agonises over Syria, Egypt, Snowden, lack of gay rights in Russia. Passes some mild criticism of Mugabe and does nothing. Where is the outrage that the same countries, people and media expressed about South African Rugby tours for example, which hurt no one? Or about Rhodesia declaring Independence (just like the USA 270 years earlier) to prevent the disaster that has now unfolded?

The disaster in Zimbabwe – and with a ruined economy, 25% of its population fled, no currency of its own, and massive crimes against humanity, it is a disaster, gets almost no attention and less concern from the so-called defenders of democracy – the USA, UK and other Western nations.

Why? Because the West is too ashamed to admit that it sacrificed it’s only two important allies in sub-Saharan  Africa, Rhodesia and South Africa. With mining revenues declining, no oil in either country and the Cape sea route no longer of major strategic importance, the suffering of millions of people and massive human rights abuses can be quietly ignored.

Now if Zimbabwe had oil……….

The hypocrisy of the West and the liberal media is enough to make a saint despair.