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Syria Intervention

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I agree that chemical weapons belong a short list of prohibitted tactical weapons. They destroy indiscriminately with horrific results, as do biological and nuclear weapons. However, the dilemma in enforcing this prohibition lies in the enforcement of any prohibition: who makes the judgement, and what is the appropriate response. We are all too aware of the stories of Saddam Hussein, and how he used chemical weapons on his Kurdish minorities. But the original story we heard in the midst of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War was that the Iranians were the ones launching chemical weapons. Remember how Colin Powell sunk his credibility selling the 2003 Iraq War to the UN. The BS that passes as fact presented before the world court in too many cases often comes as a package deal for some hidden agenda. Epistomologically, how do we know that which we THINK we know?

There is a world-wide ban on landmines. Are we to attack every nation that hasn't removed them from their soil?

Edited by Repairman

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The danger of chemical weapons discussed by Nicky is precisely why the ban is irrational. If France and Poland had chemical weapons in 1939, then we would never have heard of blitzkrieg. That mode of warfare would have been useless. The fear of their use after WWI is why such wars would not have been entered into except for the ban. You can thank the chemical weapons ban, in part, for WWII. We know that mutually assured destruction was and is an effective policy and that would apply to chemical weapons too. War would be much less frequent had this ban not been entered into.

Approbation and pariah status would be better policies. We do not have to deal with evil men. We can oppose them, but we are under no obligation to go to war with them.

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However, the dilemma in enforcing this prohibition lies in the enforcement of any prohibition: who makes the judgement, and what is the appropriate response.

Governments interested in enforcing the ban make the judgment, and the response is whatever it takes to ensure that the ban is taken seriously.

presented before the world court

What world court are you referring to?

There is a world-wide ban on landmines. Are we to attack every nation that hasn't removed them from their soil?

Even if there was a legitimate reason to attempt to ban land mines (and there isn't, land mines are not an offensive weapon, and therefor of no significant threat to the free world), attempting to ban them is futile.

None of that is true for chemical weapons. They are a major threat, and the ban has worked very well. We just need to keep it that way, by punishing Assad for this incident in Syria.

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The danger of chemical weapons discussed by Nicky is precisely why the ban is irrational. If France and Poland had chemical weapons in 1939, then we would never have heard of blitzkrieg. That mode of warfare would have been useless. The fear of their use after WWI is why such wars would not have been entered into except for the ban. You can thank the chemical weapons ban, in part, for WWII. We know that mutually assured destruction was and is an effective policy and that would apply to chemical weapons too. War would be much less frequent had this ban not been entered into.

Approbation and pariah status would be better policies. We do not have to deal with evil men. We can oppose them, but we are under no obligation to go to war with them.

It's not true that MAD works well. It worked once, barely. That doesn't prove that it always works. And chemical weapons don't assure mutual destruction anyway. Far from it. 

 

As for your suggestion to just ignore evil, you made this same suggestion a page ago. Someone answered you, explained why you're wrong very well. So why just repeat it instead of addressing the reply?

Edited by Nicky

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In the court of world opinion, which could constitute everyone in Television Land, as well as any collective of government administrators, instrustrialists, militarists, ect, we could be getting the old run-around routine. Who is verifying this evidence, the same people who verified Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? Who really knows what is going on over there. Go ahead and act out of an emotional response; punish whom ever you wish. What's likely to happen is the US will be blamed for everything that goes wrong in Syria from here on, including bad weather and crop failure. And who could blame them? We would be expanding the conflict, not ending it. The proverbial road to regret is paved with good intentions.

Protocol 2 of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons places restrictions on the use of specific landmines. Who favors war against proven violators of this convention? Selective enforcement is one of the oldest forms of corruption.

Edited by Repairman

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Nicky, you and others misread my suggestion as ignoring those who use chemical weapons. I just suggest that war is not the immediate and absolute response. If war is the only acceptable response, then the ban is even more invalid.

Thank you for admitting that MAD worked.

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Even if there was a legitimate reason to attempt to ban land mines (and there isn't, land mines are not an offensive weapon, and therefor of no significant threat to the free world), attempting to ban them is futile.

 

Protocol 2 of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons places restrictions on the use of specific landmines. Who favors war against proven violators of this convention?

 

I'm learning how to use these formats, thank for your patience.

Edited by Repairman

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The danger of chemical weapons discussed by Nicky is precisely why the ban is irrational. If France and Poland had chemical weapons in 1939, then we would never have heard of blitzkrieg. That mode of warfare would have been useless. The fear of their use after WWI is why such wars would not have been entered into except for the ban. You can thank the chemical weapons ban, in part, for WWII. We know that mutually assured destruction was and is an effective policy and that would apply to chemical weapons too. War would be much less frequent had this ban not been entered into.

Approbation and pariah status would be better policies. We do not have to deal with evil men. We can oppose them, but we are under no obligation to go to war with them.

Poland did have chemical weapons. 

The first incident involving poisonous gas in WWII occurred on the evening of Friday, September 8, 1939 in the village of Jaslo in the south of Poland. (5) Polish troops had tried to blow up a railway bridge over the river Jasiolka. The Poles had used a chemical bomb(6). http://rense.com/general83/gas.htm
 
Also USA and Great Britanain. France also developed used and stockpiled chemical weapons. "The deficiencies of chlorine were overcome with the introduction of phosgene, which was prepared by a group of French chemists led by Victor Grignard and first used by France in 1915.[24] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapons_in_World_War_I

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Leonid,

The exception proves the rule. Germans were deterred from using nerve gas for fear of retaliation in kind, i.e., MAD. They also seem to have considered that poison gas would be harmful to their horses upon which their army was dependent. Japanese did use chemical weapons hundreds of times against asians but not against the US--again saved by MAD. The US has poised mustard gas near Italy for retaliatory use in case Germany used them first, but the only victims were US sailors and Italian civilians when Germans sank the ship upon which they were stored. It seems that Poland made a decision not to use chemical weapons on a large scale despite these six mustard gas mines. MAD again?

The ban seemed to have no effect except against those with significant stockpiles. The US did not sign the poison gas ban until 1974.

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The more relevant question is if banning specific countries from obtaining specific types of weapons is proper (e.g. countries like Syria and Iran which have strong ties with terrorist groups and are considered an objective threat). There is context dropping going on here.

 

 

 

Edited by thenelli01

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The more relevant question is if banning specific countries from obtaining specific types of weapons is proper (e.g. countries like Syria and Iran which have strong ties with terrorist groups and are considered an objective threat). There is context dropping going on here.

Yes, I think it is definitely right to stop some countries from getting dangerous weapons, particularly when they can use them at a distance or if there is a real danger that they will pass them on to people who do. I don't know if Israel admitted it officially, but it is generally accepted that they bombed an Iraqi nuclear-related site in 1981 and  Syrian nuclear-related site in 2007. The Israeli approach has been quite different from the the U.S. approach to Iran. The Israelis essentially did what needed to be done, but with zero bluster, and they even allowed the enemy dictator to keep things quiet within his own country so that he did not feel pressure to react. For all the U.S. bluster about Iran, I think the U.S. lacks credibility when it comes to such threats. It would be great if we see Obama on T.V. in a couple of weeks, saying: "A few hours ago, American cruise missiles hit three targets in Syria and our air-force hit five targets in iran, dealing a severe blow to their nuclear capabilities." 

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Yes, I think it is definitely right to stop some countries from getting dangerous weapons, particularly when they can use them at a distance or if there is a real danger that they will pass them on to people who do. I don't know if Israel admitted it officially, but it is generally accepted that they bombed an Iraqi nuclear-related site in 1981 and  Syrian nuclear-related site in 2007. The Israeli approach has been quite different from the the U.S. approach to Iran. The Israelis essentially did what needed to be done, but with zero bluster, and they even allowed the enemy dictator to keep things quiet within his own country so that he did not feel pressure to react. For all the U.S. bluster about Iran, I think the U.S. lacks credibility when it comes to such threats. It would be great if we see Obama on T.V. in a couple of weeks, saying: "A few hours ago, American cruise missiles hit three targets in Syria and our air-force hit five targets in iran, dealing a severe blow to their nuclear capabilities." 

Yes, but as a result of that policy of limited strikes, in 2013 Israel is still facing the same enemies( except for Iraq). And the only reason it isn't also facing Iraq is because the US had a different approach, and actually removed the Iraqi government.

 

Now, we have the opportunity to remove another enemy government (enemy of both the US and Israel), but this time at a significantly lesser cost than in Iraq (I mean a lesser cost than the actual war in Iraq up to the capture of Baghdad, not the subsequent five year occupation), because there's an armed opposition in place doing most of the fighting.

 

Doesn't it then make more sense to formulate a strategy that will help the more secular elements in that opposition fight, rather than blow up a few storage facilities and risk poisoning thousands of civilians as a result?

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Doesn't it then make more sense to formulate a strategy that will help the more secular elements in that opposition fight, rather than blow up a few storage facilities and risk poisoning thousands of civilians as a result?

If it is really possible for the U.S. to help secular elements in a way that their ultimate control is a good bet, I think it would be a good idea. Indeed, if we can support someone who will end up just as dictatorial Assad while being ethnically Sunni, who still as un-religious as Assad, and who will not conduct broad anti-Alawite purges, that will probably be better than Assad's regime, and better for most Syrians than this on-going warfare.

Sometimes, I think a better strategy is to support break-ups of these countries: let Iraq split into three countries, let Syria revert to the multiple states that existed under Turkish control.

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The more relevant question is if banning specific countries from obtaining specific types of weapons is proper (e.g. countries like Syria and Iran which have strong ties with terrorist groups and are considered an objective threat). There is context dropping going on here.

Trying to prevent a few countries, or terrorist groups, from getting chemical weapons, but allowing everyone else to mass produce them at their leisure, would be a futile effort. In a decade, there would be a vibrant market of chemical weapons, where anyone can buy or sell them at an affordable price, just like there is a vibrant market of conventional weapons of equal or greater complexity, today.

 

At that point, there would be nothing anyone could do to stop it, including stop terrorists from getting it. The only way to prevent that is by sticking to the original plan, of 98% of the world's countries agreeing to never produce them and punish anyone who does.

 

The relevant question is: What moral argument do you have against the solution which works: a universal ban on chemical weapons? Do you consider owning chemical weapons Syria's right?

 

As for the argument that everyone owning chemical weapons would be a deterrent, no it wouldn't be. Not even a little one. What would a western country, or any free country, do with chemical weapons, if they had them? Release them in a city the terrorists that just poisoned 10.000 in the NY subway were born in? MAD worked once, when there were only five nuclear armed governments involved. It wouldn't work when one of the parties expected to worry about retaliation is a terrorist cell somewhere. And even that once, it barely worked: indeed the world is far more peaceful today, with the US maintaining as much peace as it can through strategic alliances and small scale military interventions, than it was when MAD was in effect.

Edited by Nicky

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The more relevant question is if banning specific countries from obtaining specific types of weapons is proper (e.g. countries like Syria and Iran which have strong ties with terrorist groups and are considered an objective threat). There is context dropping going on here.

 

There does indeed seem to be considerable context dropping here. Syria has had chemical weapons for decades without once setting them loose to use against western targets. It seems that their dispersal in advance of a military quest to destroy their launching mechanisms has greatly increased the odds of those weapons falling into more dangerous hands, namely the Syrian revolutionaries. What is more, anything that brings those revolutionaries closer to the reins of power in Syria increases the odds of exactly the worst elements in the world gaining control of those chemical weapons. What the US government has alread done increases the global threat and regional instability.

 

What is more, if Syria and Iran are threats, it is because of a philosophy that has gained broad support within the region. The only way to subdue that philosophy by force is to anihilate enormous populations. A more serious proposal would be to pursue a policy of undermining that philosophy and of changing hearts and minds. We should support voices of reason where possible, and kill only when directly threatened. Otherwise, we are initiating force and become the evil ones.

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Sometimes, I think a better strategy is to support break-ups of these countries: let Iraq split into three countries, let Syria revert to the multiple states that existed under Turkish control.

 

I heard a rather strong version of this argument on The Daily Show a few days ago, that the main cause of violence in the region has been the arbitrary country borders drawn by Westerners after WWII.  It's stuff we've all heard before, and I'd always thought that this argument was fairly common sense, but after thinking on it a little I'm not so sure.  Do we really think that the sectarian violence between different religious and ethnic groups that has happened over there would have been much better if each group had its own country?  Look at one case where country division by religious beliefs actually occurred: India and Pakistan.  We'll never know what it would have looked like over there had they remained one country, but one thing we can say for sure: it hasn't exactly been peaceful between the two nations.  I'm not convinced that giving each cultural group its own country and government wouldn't have just resulted in basically the same thing we have now: different ethnic and religious groups that hate each other engaging in conflict after conflict.  Perhaps it would be the same violence, just categorized differently by us: as inter-country conflicts rather than sectarian violence within a country.  Maybe allowing breakups of countries would help, but I'm really not sure by how much.

 

I think the reason that this argument has gained so much traction is not because it stands up to scrutiny particularly well, but rather that it furthers a favorite pastime of Western intellectuals: blaming Western ignorance for global problems.

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I think the reason that this argument has gained so much traction is not because it stands up to scrutiny particularly well, but rather that it furthers a favorite pastime of Western intellectuals: blaming Western ignorance for global problems.

There may be something to this, but in Syria, and a few other places (like Hussein's Iraq), the additional complicating factor was that the minority ethnicity ended up ruling. This creates a tension between the status-quo and any potential moves to democracy.

Imagine an undivided India where the dictator was a muslim and where he filled the top ranks of government with muslims. It would been fragile, with civil war somewhere in the future. Indeed, this is what happened within Pakistan. The elites were mostly from Western Pakistan, but the population was larger (and growing faster) in East Pakistan (Bengali ethnicity). When a East Pakistani won the election, it divided the country. One actually sees the same thing in modern-day India. It has not split into countries, but a few new states were carved out of the existing states post-independence primarily because of ethnic tensions. Most of the time, some years of unrest and insurgency were followed by a political solution where a state was split into two.

Though westerners can sometimes exaggerate the importance of ethnicity in more backward countries, they can also under-estimate them.

I don't think the U.S. should push any state toward breaking up, but nor should it push unity upon a state where it seems to have come apart, where the separate ethnic groups are each keen to take their piece of the pie, and where there is a historical basis for the proposed division.

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On Syrian chemical weapons:

I sincerely doubt that MAD is a valid response to Islamic violence (by extension, most of the middle east).

It worked before and can work again, but only if both parties want to live. Terrorists don't.

However, what's the real problem with chems? If it's their offensive capacity then that applies equally well to guns and cavalry.

If it's their indiscriminate destruction then the same applies to landmines.

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In the latest turn of events, after Kerry suggested -- somewhat in passing -- that action may be avoided if Syria turned over all its chemical weapons, the Russians said this would be a good proposal. The Syrian foreign minister responded positively, and the U.N. Secretary general said it would be the way to go. So, perhaps we will move into a phase where U.N. inspectors set up shop in Syria and they hand over their chemical weapons, and then the U.N. inspectors sart to destroy them and also certify that they've all been handle over. Could take many months, with face-saving all around.

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This is analogous to gun laws. As such it's moral to seize chem weapons if there's evidence of offensive intent (preemptive coercion).

So it isn't moral to deny such weapons to a free country but Syria is obviously fair game. However, this doesn't mean it's necessarily in our best interests to do so [again with the priorities].

If it's cost effective then we should enforce the ban thusly, when and where we can. But it'll only be such in very limited cases.

We cannot babyproof the world- whether it's from meth, guns, fireworks, soda pop or WMD's. So banning tools or materials of any sort is ultimately futile.

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This is analogous to gun laws. As such it's moral to seize chem weapons if there's evidence of offensive intent (preemptive coercion).

So it isn't moral to deny such weapons to a free country but Syria is obviously fair game. However, this doesn't mean it's necessarily in our best interests to do so [again with the priorities].

Five countries refused to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention: Angola, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan and Syria.

 

Everyone else agreed to never produce or use them. So the issue isn't whether these 191 countries have a right to chemical weapons or not: they don't and they don't want them. The only issue is whether the other five have the right to have them or not. 

If there's an analogy between this state of affairs and gun laws, you haven't explained it.

However, what's the real problem with chems? If it's their offensive capacity then that applies equally well to guns and cavalry.

If it's their indiscriminate destruction then the same applies to landmines.

As it's been said at least 5 times in the thread, it's their effectiveness relative to their complexity.

We cannot babyproof the world- whether it's from meth, guns, fireworks, soda pop or WMD's. So banning tools or materials of any sort is ultimately futile.

We're not talking about meth, guns or fireworks. We're talking about chemical weapons. When you say that banning them is futile, what is the actual claim you're making about the specific subject of the thread?

Are you claiming that, despite the ban, chemical weapons are in widespread production and use? If so, then you're factually wrong, they're not.

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It appears that there is now a diplomatic solution on the table - Assad handing over his chemical weapons willingly. I hope this happens - chemical weapons are a threat to us all because by their nature they are indiscriminate.

 

They target innocent children for example. Am I right in saying that some Objectivists think it is morally acceptable to do this in war?

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Am I right in saying that some Objectivists think it is morally acceptable to do this in war?

I've never heard an Objectivist endorse the idea. Maybe you're confused about how Objectivists decide to place blame for collateral damage?

Edit: To clarify, Objectivism holds that the aggressor nation is morally responsible for the war deaths of its own citizens. If a civilian population needs to be struck to degrade the military capability of an aggressor, then such a strike moral when performed as an act of defense. This does not speak to specifically targeting children, as I can see no conceivable way to degrade military capacity by doing so.

Edited by FeatherFall

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