Legal Does Not Mean Wise 65


To bomb ISIS in Syria is now legal in international law, with authority granted by the Security Council. (I subscribe to the argument of my ex-boss Brian Barder on the interpretation of SCR 2249). Whether it is wise or not is a quite different question.

Even John Simpson on the BBC yesterday admitted that many innocent civilians had been killed in recent bombings of the ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. Though being the BBC, while reporting correctly that the United States, France and Russia are all bombing Raqqa, they contrived only to mention civilian deaths in a sentence about Russian bombing. That bombing creates terrorist blowback has been proven beyond any rational dispute. So if ending terrorism is truly the aim, it is a curiously counter-productive means of going about it.

There is also the question of mission creep. In Libya, the security council mandated nothing but the enforcement of a no-fly zone, to prevent the possibility of a massacre in Benghazi, which was precisely as genuine a danger as Iraqi WMD. Quite illegally, the UK participated in a massive western air to ground attack including on populated areas, under the pretext of disabling any possible threat to western aircraft enforcing the no fly zone. The aim, quite illegal, was regime change. This is how “the no-fly zone was enforced” by western bombing of Sirte.
Sirte-destroyed-1

The danger is that a bombing campaign will cause this kind of devastation of civilian areas, as indeed is now happening in Raqqa, but also as in Libya will be carried far beyond the authorised objective, and extended against the areas loyal to President Assad. This risks confrontation with Russia – a danger that has been starkly illustrated since I started sketching out this article by the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey.

Libya illustrates starkly the last and largest problem – that you cannot control what fills the vacuum. The governance of Libya is now a disaster. The ultimate irony was that the people of Benghazi demonstrated their gratitude at being saved from “massacre” by slaughtering the American Ambassador. The truth of the matter is that, despite the dreadful records of both Saddam and Gaddafi, the manner of their removal resulted in a situation where life was undoubtedly better for the vast majority of the population under the dictators. Which is a massive testament to Western incompetence.

David Cameron appears to have no idea whatsoever what will replace ISIS in the areas under its control. We know that he does not want the Syrian state under President Assad to take control. The area is not Kurdish, so they are not an option. Hezbollah is regarded as an Iranian proxy. The West’s attempts to create moderate pro-Western Sunni rebel forces have been a pathetic failure. The Saudis and other Gulf states have funded a variety of rebels, including much of ISIS and other groups which have an equally insane agenda. If any of the Wahabbi groups besides ISIS could be strengthened sufficiently to hold major territory, they would undoubtedly be found to be just as enthusiastic at persecuting Christians and other minorities and beheading people.

Someone has to control the physical territory, and Cameron has no viable alternative for this at all. Talk of funding and training moderate groups is whistling in the dark. The USA has already put far greater resources into this than the UK ever could, and the result has been complete failure.

Having delivered Sikunder Burnes to the publisher, I have started research on a life of Lord George Murray, working title The Man Who Terrified London. It is in fact true that some Scottish aristocratic families deliberately allocated members to each side in the 45, to ensure continued family control of the estates. But such instances are very rare, the Frasers of Lovat being the most notable. Most family splits, like among the Murrays of Atholl, were genuine and painful. My favourite example is the MacDonells, who were all Jacobite but decided that Glengarry himself, a hopeless alcoholic incompetent, would do more harm to the Hanoverians by remaining on their side. There is an excellent simile here to the Saudis, where numerous minor royals and all their business contractors are pumping money into ISIS and other extreme Wahabbi groups, while the King and Crown Prince pretend to be pro-Western and anti-ISIS. That is when they can spare a moment from their aerial massacre of the Houtha, or sentencing children and poets to death at home. The situation in all our Gulf “allies” is the same.

It is of course instructive that there is no sense at all in which Trident missiles are helpful in this dilemma. It is worth repeating out loud every time we consider a defence or foreign policy dilemma “Trident is useless in the particular situation”. We should say it all the time. We are spending an inconceivable sum on a system which is no earthly use.

But bombing is just as useless. It can achieve nothing whatsoever except pointless death. It will make Cameron look macho and win some jingo votes, enabling the corporate and state media to whip up a frenzy of hate against non-militarists. I suppose that is a useful purpose for the establishment. There is no other useful purpose.

Bombing ISIS in Syria may now be legal. That does not make it useful or wise.


65 thoughts on “Legal Does Not Mean Wise

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  • Habbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)

    I’m glad you’ve got in a mention of Brian. He is a good man.

  • Habbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)

    Craig, an afterthought.

    Brian’s article starts off as follows:

    “The UN Security Council’s resolution on ISIL (ISIS, Da’esh), adopted unanimously on 20 November, has received much less UK media attention and analysis than it deserves.”

    All hail to you, Craig, for starting off yours by linking to it and saying you agree with his analysis.

    No hail at all to those commenters on here who were fully aware of the UNSCR but chose to look modestly away and not mention it – presumably because it renders nugatory one of their main arguments, that of illegality under international law.

    You are an honest man – they are not.

  • Mary

    Habbabkuk has obviously not read Craig’s essay.

    ‘It is of course instructive that there is no sense at all in which Trident missiles are helpful in this dilemma. It is worth repeating out loud every time we consider a defence or foreign policy dilemma “Trident is useless in the particular situation”. We should say it all the time. We are spending an inconceivable sum on a system which is no earthly use.’

    My remark about the debate was not a diversion. Apologize.

  • Jeremy Stocks

    Craig I have been a follower of your blog a while. I think I have in common with you a kinship as I lived in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and worked for the Saudi Ministry of Education in the 90s mapping marine resources in the Arabian Gulf. I was due to visit Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan under the old ISEAM/TACIS scheme run by the EU to map soil erosion, but ended my tour early only in Mongolia as the task set for me – training mapping to the three countries was false. I did however gain one significant asset in Ulan Bataar – a German wife!!! 🙂

    I believe only those of us who have spent time “out there” in the lands of the Great Game will understand something of what is going on. I remember getting on so well with Arabs who had no interest in making trouble, being able to respect their way of life yet teasing them on an equal par. I used to travel across the Arabian desert a lot in an old Lada Niva across the Kingdom. The place pre-Khobar Towers(that was the earliest Al Qaeda or Iranian move) was still a fascinating atmosphere and quite positive. The Arabs liked us and we Brits and Arabs were very cordial. however after Operation Desert Fox in 1998 the atmosphere distinctly changed. I used to have a great rapport with Jordanian colleagues then after that brutal cruise missile attack one of them said to me “I will not shake your hand this morning. your people (British) are murderers”.

    I find it such a sad shame that this old world of the Arabs (does anyone know of “The Arab of the Desert” by HRP Dickson in Kuwait) and their harmonious relationship with the West who came to develop their oilfields was destroyed.

  • Mary

    The attack on ISIL ostensibly is regime change.

    Michael ‘Assad must go’ Fallon yesterday

    ‘Michael Fallon: The picture in northern Syria in particular is confused; it is not a simple conflict with front lines as we would normally understand them. It is our long-term objective for Syria to be free of both Assad and ISIL, and we continue to work with moderate elements in Syria to provide them with the equipment they need and, where we can, with training outside Syria.’

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151123/debtext/151123-0001.htm#1511232000028

    One of many similar remarks he has made.

  • Kempe

    Sirte was the scene of a brutal five week battle involving house to house fighting but no; it was NATO (predominately French) bombing that did all the damage.

  • N_

    No UN Security Council backing, then, for the French plan for UN bluehat military peacekeepers in Jerusalem and a Palestine-Israel settlement.

    Can people guess what recent event might have scuppered that?

    The plan was widely reported by Zionists.

  • mog

    Just in case you are keeping a tally or some such, I am another regular reader of your blog who doesn’t buy into the ‘incompetence’ of Western (i.e. U.S.) intervention.

    ‘Empires do things normal nations don’t. They are almost always engaged in military operations somewhere on the periphery. And they are almost always directed by a small group of elite people, industries, and special interests – the “Deep State.”

    These overseas wars are neither “mistakes” nor “aberrations.” They are intentional. And inevitable. They benefit the few who control the empire.

    Everyone else pays.’ Bill Bonner

  • N_

    Russia is the only power bombing Daesh-controlled oil refineries.

    I think people should pay attention to Daesh’s apocalypticism. That’s what makes them call their magazine ‘Dabiq’. “Blowback” is too weak a term for the effect that bombing will have on these death cultists.

  • Anon1

    Craig posts that photo for about the 8th time. It was damage caused by the various sides slogging it out with artillery and RPGs.

    Still, at least he seems to have backed away from the 15,000 killed by Nato claim.

  • nevermind

    The UK is planning to attack Assads forces under the disguise of ‘hitting IS’, the real reason for the desperation shown by Cameron to tie us into further actions.
    This morning shooting down of a Russian airplane and now the subsequent capture of one of the two pilots means that a NATO member with a history of moderate relations between the two, has been egged on to take out a Russian plane.

    Whether it was a Turkish pilot or another NATO member is not clear yet, but this will escalate and complicate issues even further. Turkey has not been reprimanded for its cosy relationships with IS, preferring to bomb Kurdish fighters against IS, rather than IS itself.

    This, we can only hope, was an accident. Fighter jets pulling tight curves do come away from their intended course and my guess is that the SU24 was no more than a few seconds over Turkish airspace.

    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/syrien-kriegsflugzeug-nahe-tuerkischer-grenze-abgestuerzt-a-1064245.html

    Looks like some turkeys are having a shoot. Thanksgiving coming up?

  • Mark Golding

    The downing of the Russian plane is “a very serious incident,” said Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He added, however, that it is too early to draw conclusions until the whole situation is clear.

    We now have a clear insight understanding of a briefing to RAF Tornado GR4 pilots at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus to ‘rattle the cages’ of Russian fighters in any confrontation.

    Are we supposed to be fighting Daesh/ISIS?

    My thanks to ‘Jimmy’ for trusting me.

  • Ken2

    It was the US/UK who funded Daesh to go into Syria to destabilise the country further. They have created the worse migration to Europe since 11WW. The costs to Europe are enormous. Parts of Syria have been devastated. Reportedly 70% of the population support Assad. Or he would have been gone by now. Half of the electorate in the UK who support the Tories. 30%.

    Now the UK/US France want to blow their usurpers to bits csusing more misery It is appalling. It is all about Oil. Just buy it it would come at less cost.

    Russian tried to brokers talks with Syria/Assad to try and get a diplomatic solution. Assad has been reported as willing to devolve powers. The West refused and more and more people are being killed.

    The Syrian population was 23Million until the 2011 civil war. Now 4Million are refugees. 210,000 have been killed. How many as a result of the West interference and intervention? Most of them?

  • Ken2

    Russia is bombing Daesh sites of Oil assets. Russia gets control of production. Russia is losing revenues because of the fall in the Price of Oil. A rise in the price of Oil would be an advantage to the Russian economy. Russia sells military equipment to Syria. Trades Oil.

    The Middle East counties are beautiful with lovely people. Many westerns have lived in them for years. The population should be given more rights and higher education, to chose their own destiny. Funds are being spent on too much strife.

  • Habbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)

    Mary

    “Habbabkuk has obviously not read Craig’s essay.

    ‘It is of course instructive that there is no sense at all in which Trident missiles are helpful in this dilemma. It is worth repeating out loud every time we consider a defence or foreign policy dilemma “Trident is useless in the particular situation”. We should say it all the time. We are spending an inconceivable sum on a system which is no earthly use.’

    My remark about the debate was not a diversion. Apologize.”
    ____________________

    No apologies required, Lambkin.

    Craig devotes 5 lines to Trident in a much longer post which focuses on the inadvisability of British military intervention in Syria, despite the UNSCR.

    You, of course, after a cursory thank you to Craig, immediately home in on Trident – thus diverting from Craig’s focus.

    I do recognise however that you are not bright enough to post something – in your own words – on the focus of Craig’s new thread.

  • Silvio

    Craig wrote:
    The truth of the matter is that, despite the dreadful records of both Saddam and Gaddafi, the manner of their removal resulted in a situation where life was undoubtedly better for the vast majority of the population under the dictators. Which is a massive testament to Western incompetence. (my emphasis /Silvio)

    No chance I suppose it could be NOT just another example of mind-boggling,knee buckling, over-the-top incompetence, but a planned and desired outcome for those who might have a long term “order out of chaos” approach to US foreign policy (hint, google the phrase: neoconservatism AND US foreign policy), or as a popular and well known British conspiracy theorist and author likes to put it, the old problem-reaction-solution tactic.

    The European Council on Foreign Relations and Berlin think-tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung have just reached more or less the same conclusion.
    By Pepe Escobar

    If the dangerous stand-off between the EU and Russia over Ukraine is not solved, the EU could face, up to 2030, a military build-up in eastern Europe; a new arms race with NATO as a protagonist; and a semi-permanent “zone of instability” from the Baltic to the Balkans and the Black Sea.

    What these two think-tanks don’t – and won’t – ever acknowledge is that a new European “arc of instability” – from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as myself and other independent analysts have stressed – is exactly what the A href=”http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Chaos-Roving-Eye-Collection-ebook/dp/B00OYVYD3G/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415721538&sr=1-1&keywords=Empire+of+Chaos%5D”>Empire of Chaos and its weaponized arm – NATO – are working on to prevent closer Eurasia integration.

    By the way, the Pentagon excels in fabricating “arcs of instability.” The previous one was – and remains – massive, stretching from the Maghreb to Xinjiang in western China across the Middle East and Central Asia.

    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/213303-putin-russia-sovereign-swift/

  • Habbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)

    “No UN Security Council backing, then, for the French plan for UN bluehat military peacekeepers in Jerusalem and a Palestine-Israel settlement.

    Can people guess what recent event might have scuppered that?

    The plan was widely reported by Zionists.”
    _____________________

    Didn’t take long for some tosser to fire up the anti-Israel spoel, did it 🙂

  • Fredi

    “These overseas wars are neither “mistakes” nor “aberrations.” They are intentional. And inevitable. They benefit the few who control the empire.”

    Spot on Mog, (and Bonner), nobody could be that consistently successful at being so outstandingly incompetent for so long.

    They knew in 2012 they were supporting extremists, the DIA report proves it.

    Face it the Jihadi/Zionist fundamentalists steer western foreign policy.

    Allahu Akbar indeed..

  • Canexpat

    @Ken2

    At this point I no longer think this continuing ME disaster is primarily about oil. If anything, a conflict as destabilising as the NATO/Gulf/Turkey created insurgency interrupts the flow of oil, and prevents the flow of profits to oil companies. I was one of those who believed that Iraq was about oil, but then watched many of the oil exploitation contracts in that devastated country go to Chinese firms. It took Iraq, Libya and finally Syria to convince me that although corporate interests may be part of the story, and the desire of the MIC to continue to make obscene profits is undoubtably a factor, there is another more overriding plan playing out here. General Wesley Clark’s ‘Seven countries in Five Years’ revelations, combined with the identities of the principal Neocon criminals pushing this destabilisation agenda and who are still very active in the U.S. State Department suggest a different motive. There has been a conscious effort to Balkanise the formerly stable secular countries created under Sykes-Picot and the ‘mistakes were made’ excuse has been used to disguise the deliberate policy of those calling the shots.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw

  • Alcyone

    The hundred-billion-dollar (serious devaluation all around) question is what is wise action, under the circumstances?

    Its all very well to define the problem, and refine that further. We live in a world of global confusion. Constant War has been the way and the bane of humankind. Every attempt, including this well-intentioned article, is simply a minor modification, not transformation, of the the present conflict and confusion.

    Talking of Wisdom, some of the wisest words spoken at the UN:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fzV8QH1JeE

    For all the voracious readers here, transcript:
    http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-text.php?tid=1644&chid=1339

  • AliB

    But who is currently buying the oil from ISIS? Russia bombing the oil refineries will cause some longer term problems but why have we , the west not stopped whoever is buying it long ago? So that we could continue to enjoy low oil prices??

    Whatever the reason, if we were serious about stopping the growth of ISIS we would have taken action a long time ago.

  • Ken2

    The US/UK funded and armed ISIS. They trained them to destabilise Assad/Syria. Now they want to blow them to bits.

  • Ken2

    The wee Turk appears. Monty Python time. The day of the snake. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. They are all destroying their own economy’s. Lunacy.

  • Sixer

    Having spent yesterday afternoon watching the parliamentary debate and being thoroughly repulsed by the faux-concern expressions concealing the raging hard-ons for war, I think I might just retire from the internet (and the world) for a while.

  • Mary

    @11.23am By his works words ye shall know him. As slimy as ever. Note his silly attempt to belittle me by calling me ‘Lambkin’.

    I take heart that I am seen as a challenge to the trolls.

    ~~~

    Hollande is doing a BLiar/Cameron. Off to see Obomber and then Merkel and Putin. More wasted kerosene.

    ‘But this is just the start of Mr Hollande’s week of diplomacy. After his meeting with David Cameron, he flies to Washington to discuss the situation with US President Barack Obama, before coming back to Paris for a meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.’

    Paris attacks: President Hollande’s search for allies
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34902832

    They think we cannot see through their playacting.

  • fred

    “But who is currently buying the oil from ISIS? Russia bombing the oil refineries will cause some longer term problems but why have we , the west not stopped whoever is buying it long ago? So that we could continue to enjoy low oil prices??”

    The oil is bought directly from ISIS by tribesmen at well below market price. They take it in tankers to anybody who will buy it. Assad is one of their best customers at the moment, our sanctions mean he relies on it.

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