Let the Dust Settle

SplittingMiddleEastWar. How many more need to die? What can we do to stop it?

Valid questions that could – and have – been asked by most of us over the last month and more. Gaza, Ukraine, and of course, the unfolding drama in Iraq are so shocking, so horrifying, we feel the need to do something.

And that’s when we need to pause and think. The law of unintended consequences has, for the most part, got us to where we are today with most of the horrors we see around the world. Our desire – often with the best intentions – to interfere with some of the terrible things happening around the world has led to a series of even worse results.

Take Iraq. Things are bad there now, to put it mildly. The system that we installed just isn’t working. The idea you can “install” a system from the outside is, to many libertarians, a painfully clear example of Hayek’s “fatal conceit”: that other people in other countries are merely pieces you can move on a chessboard, without taking to account their dreams and desires. It’s the pretense of knowledge.

But we had to do that in Iraq didn’t we? The nonsense of WMD’s aside, wasn’t Saddam an evil dictator? Yes, but again, one we installed. Another awful unintended consequence of our previous interventions. We’ve been arbitrarily carving up that map and imposing artificial borders for years. This needs to stop.

The map you see in this blog post is controversial, but perhaps the only resolution in Iraq that doesn’t allow for a never-ending cycle of violence and war. The fact is, a big part of Syria and Iraq should be – according to the Sunni majority who live there – a Sunni state. Similarly, The South-East of Iraq, the Shi’ite dominated area, should be a Shi’ite state.

I’m not saying this solution (allowing for autonomy for the Kurds as well of course, as well as others), would be some sort of utopia. But if we didn’t interfere, after a while – and yes, lots of bloodshed – this map would be what we end up with. And maybe, just maybe a lasting piece.

The same can be said of the Crimea region of the Ukraine, or the creation of a recognised Palestinian state. Yes, these wouldn’t magically fix things, but they are the steps needed to a lasting peace.

Instead of trying to constantly fix and reshape the world around us, maybe us Brits, Americans and others should do the most painful thing of all: let the dust settle. Keep dolling out aid and let a peaceful solution find itself.

It’s difficult and counter-intuitive. But it might just work.

The Secret to World Peace

Summed up better by libertarian magicians Penn & Teller than almost anyone else:

Yup. That.

Syria, Chemicals and War

Several days ago, I posted this on Twitter:

I know, it’s a flippant, loose, possibly ignorant response to what was (then) our possible response to the chemical weapons deployment in Syria. That’s what you get for only having 140 characters to play with on Twitter.

But I stand by it. And I’m pleased that our Prime Minister took the issue of war/a clinical strike to the legislature, and that they voted against it. The media were hyperventilating over how this result weakened David Cameron, but I think it’s one of the strongest, most mature things he’s done since walking into No. 10.

And now that Obama has followed suit – citing the vote in Westminster specifically – I think Cameron will come out all the stronger.

I’m still deeply concerned that the war drum beats on in D.C. though. And it seems like the majority of the legislative branch will vote for war. There’s even worrying talk that Britain’s parliament may vote again once we get word that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

The civil war in Syria is horrific. I mourn the loss of innocent people there, I really do. if someone wants to set up some refugee camps and needs monetary support, then tell me where to sign up. If you want to advocate clearing the trade embargoes and restrictions in Syria and anywhere else in the world, then I’ll stand by that – the only real way to guarantee security and peace in the long term. (I’ll show you a Penn & Teller clip tomorrow that perfectly explains why this works).

But we’re talking about picking winners and losers in a intricate and difficult war with too many complexities even for the Syrians themselves to understand. It’s not a war with “good” side (i.e. “the rebels”) and a “bad” side (i.e. Assad).

Yes, Assad is a monster. Maybe he or his supporters deployed those chemicals that John Kerry claims killed 1,400+ people. But the only other significant time chemical weapons were used in Syria, a UN inspection found it was rebel forces who had deployed them.

And “the rebels” are not one group. It’d be great if they were like the plucky American minutemen, fighting for freedom and independence, simply pursuing a classical liberal democratic republic. But they’re not. There isn’t two sides to this war – there’s at least seven at the last count. At least two groups of rebel forces are directly linked to Al-Qaeda. So we’re going to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and back them up in Syria?

I’d love to see Assad removed from power – but replaced with what? The two million or-so Christians living in Syria are protected by the Assad regime. What happens to then once he’s gone and replaced with – possibly – something even worse?

Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe whoever from the rebel forces rises to the top will be much better than what they replace. But in a situation so complex, and with Iran, China, Russia and more involved and looking on with interest, surely the most dangerous thing for British and American political leaders to have now is certainty?