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Assad and his Weapons

by on December 6, 2012

Well, we all know that President Bashar al Assad of Syria has his choice of weapons.  He is engaged in a great civil war, testing whether his nation, or any nation so conceived, can be controlled by brute force.  So far he has limited his arsenal to ‘conventional weapons’ like guns, tanks, airplanes and missiles for use against his own people.

But a couple of weeks ago he ordered (or there otherwise transpired) an internet blackout.  Given how tightly – dare I use the word efficiently – he has controlled Syria as a dictator over the last twelve years, and his father for twenty-nine years before that, might I say the blackout was intentional?

There was some speculation in the media that something spectacular, and likely very bloody, was about to happen in Syria.  Why else, after all, suddenly create a media blackout after almost two years of civil war, in which opposition fighters have shared images of continuous strife and destruction?  Something must be afoot.  It quickly became clear to the international media, even during a blackout, that the Syrian military has chemical weapons (specifically sarin gas) and the military is just waiting for orders to use it.

Now, if that seems dumb to you, you’re not alone.  In a Chomskyesque statement, Michael Crowley points out that “[u]nless he runs out of conventional weapons, Assad would be foolish to incite America by tapping his chemical arsenal. He’s spent most of the past two years inflicting blood-curdling suffering on his people. There’s little reason to think we’ll try to interfere–so long as his sadism is the conventional kind, the kind we apparently can tolerate.”  There are more statements here.

You may have noticed that we’re at war.  We have been for a decade.  We’ve been at war – undeclared, but very real war – with more than one country during most of that time.  At some point, I guessed that we were in five unofficial wars at once – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and another (perhaps Libya).  We’ve also certainly gotten involved in other internal conflicts (see Libya) in recent history.  In fairness, though, we ‘involved’ ourselves in Libya, but maintained no lasting occupation.  However, although we’ve been at war for longer than any another conflict in United States history, we’ve made no effort to become involved in Syria.  So long as Assad uses ‘conventional weapons’ it seems likely to stay that way.

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