This one is part sequel, part explanation. A couple weeks back I published a video entitled “Washington, DC Has Won The War In Syria”. One of my central points was the thought that while the US government had met many of its messed up priorities, the US people and the world and general had in fact lost. It became clear from the comments that this did not get across.
So I put together the video I’m uploading with this post. I think it answers criticisms, but it also does more with that. It reckons with the larger consequences of the Syrian war for geopolitics, and the prospects of world peace and prosperity in general. It starts specific and gets very very general. Syria is a depressing issue, and my weariness with its unrelenting horror may come across in this video. But I try to end on a hopeful note.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. A couple weeks back I made a video laying out why Washington, DC has won the war in Syria. That video laid out the way that all of the supposed winners of that conflict, from Russia, to Iran, to Assad himself have actually lost. My fear is that some people in my government might see this as a victory, and a model going forward. The video closed with what I thought was the central point.
Washington, DC has won the war in Syria, the United States has not.
The comments have made it clear, that this didn’t exactly come across, and some people think I was saying that the United States had somehow improved its position by destroying Syria. That’s not what I was saying at all. With this video I hope to make it clear just how much I think the people of the United States and the people of the world have lost.
Let’s start small, and go big. First off, Syria has lost half a million people, and more than half of the survivors have been displaced. The suffering they have gone through has been incalculable, and tragically pointless. The saddest thing about this is that this all could have been avoided. The Assad regime was always vicious, but as autocrats go, Bashar Assad ca. 2010 was nowhere near as bad as at least three 2018 US allies I can think of, off the top of my head. In 2010, he could still pitch himself as the nice guy successor to his brutal father. If it weren’t for the war, he might even have been gone by now.
People don’t talk about this enough, but in 2010 the Middle East was in amazing shape. Even Iraq was looking kind of functional. Syria was posting growth rates around 6% a year, and Assad was tentatively beginning to open his economy. In September 2009, Syria achieved visa-free travel to the economic powerhouse to its North, Turkey, which posted 11.5% GDP growth in 2011. Assad was on the same road that has moved whole continents from Dictatorship to Democracy in my lifetime. We know exactly how to solve problems like Assad, and it’s not giving billions of dollars to rebels. Syria could have been Chile by now. Instead we turned it into Afghanistan. I’ve got a whole video on this if you’re not too depressed.
Assad is now likely to die before he gives up power. He has no other choice. Let’s look at the neighbors.
It may be hard to remember now, but as of 2010 Turkey and the United States were the best of friends, and they had been for almost 70 years. I really do think that’s the main reason why Turkey was willing to sign up to the “Get Assad” project back in 2011. People have other theories, but they’ve never really made much sense to me. Pretty much the only thing the old and new elites in Turkey agreed on was that friendship with the US was a good thing.
If you’ve read a news story about Turkey in the past five years, you can probably tell that the relationship is more strained now. You’ve probably heard about the fall into authoritarianism led by then Prime Minister, now President Erdogan. At the risk of my future vacations in Turkey I will admit that this is true. Erdogan is a real problem. But a lot of these news stories leave out the main reason Turkey is so screwed up. It’s not Erdogan, it’s not creeping Islam. It’s the war in Syria. The inability of world media, and the US media in particular to grasp that a massive war on the southern border might destabilize a country just blows my fricking mind. Millions of refugees, dozens of terror attacks, on-going military operations. You think that might help a country fall into authoritarianism. I’ve got a video explaining how that worked if you want to check it out.
And now ISIS, and what it has done to Iraq and Syria over the past three and a half years. The question “ Did the United States create ISIS” is a lot like the question “Did Saudi Arabia do 9-11” These are questions that will never fully be answered, but they don’t have to be. Because we know for sure, that 9/11 would not have happened without the educational and foreign policies of the Saudi government, and we know for sure, that there would never have been an Islamic State without the vast ungoverned territory in Syria that the United States paid to open up. This probably wasn’t what the US intended. But it’s certainly what we got.
I could go on in the region, and talk about the extraordinary disruption that millions of refugees have brought to countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, but I think you get the picture. The “Get Assad” project turned the Middle East from a region that was finally, just possibly, maybe turning the corner into something worthwhile, and destroyed it utterly. Oh, and It may have killed the US’s relationship with Turkey, its most important and useful Muslim ally as well. My last Syria video covers that in detail.
It is too early to judge the effects of Israel’s escalation last week, but my guess is that it will add another few years to the suffering of Syria’s people.
OK, let’s look at Europe.
In 2014 the EU was already in rough shape. The financial crisis had illustrated what a mistake the Euro currency was, and Western Europeans were getting sick of Eastern Europeans taking their low wage jobs. In the 2014 European Parliament elections, Nationalist parties achieved success that was then unprecedented. Back then I made a pretty optimistic video on the topic. I argued that 2009 through 2014 had been the worst five year period in the EU’s history, the nationalists hadn’t really done that well all things considered, and things were certain to improve. A few months after I made that video, the refugee crisis really got started. By 2015 US Funded Jihadists had taken large swathes of Syria, and refugees from thay country and many others started flooding into Europe. Right wing governments were swept to power in places like Poland, and were strengthened everywhere.
Most importantly, the refugee issue and ISIS attacks helped push the Brexit folks over the edge. 51.9% 48.1%. That’s not a very large percentage. The European Union has lost one of its most powerful members. The refugee issue has left it fraying elsewhere. The Syrian war took the EU’s five year crisis and turned it into a ten year one. It remains to be seen whether the block will survive.
I’m not a big fan of the EU’s socialized and hyper-administrative approach. But I’m a very big fan of a united and prosperous Europe. That’s something that the EU has done more to promote than any other institution I can think of. They would have been useful for the challenges we should have spent the past two decades focusing on.
And that’s perhaps the greatest loss. The world is in a time of great peril, but also great opportunity. 200 years of dominance by Europe and the United States is fading away. It’s just possible that we as a world could use the institutions we have now, and turn them into something that everyone can get on board with. Rising powers like China or India, can take leadership positions alongside the US and Europe, and we can pull off what nobody really has before, lasting peace and prosperity for the world, without coercion.
I swear I can still just see this future out there, and it’s beautiful. That’s what we should have spent the past couple decades working towards.
Instead, in Iraq, and in Syria, the US government has used the United Nations and other institutions like toilet paper, in our quest to stick it to a couple pissant petro-states. My country needs to look great and good right now, but our past 16 years in the Middle East make us look very, very small.
The United States needs to use the time we have left on top convincing people that our leadership and the institutions we have built are worthwhile. Instead we’ve spent the the time since 2001 reminding the world just how bad the West’s imperial dominance can be. People will be throwing what we’ve done in Iraq and Syria in our faces for decades. And they should.
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