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Western Powers Attack Syria

by John Brian Shannon

The International Order is Broken

We know this because the world’s politicians are using military means to solve what are essentially political problems they don’t know how to solve.

As the Syrian crisis rolls into its 8th year no clear winner has emerged, other than ISIS has been degraded by Western and Russian forces operating throughout Syria.

Not that Russia and the West are working together to destroy ISIS, rather, Western countries are working to destroy the evil entity to prevent it from spreading across the Middle East and the Western world, while the Russians are tearing ISIS apart because it represents an internal threat to Syria, its longtime ally.

Which are reasonable and noble goals.

But at any time since the Syrian conflict began in 2010, Western, Russian and Syrian diplomats could’ve worked out a plan to solve the terrorist problem inside Syria and could’ve wrapped up the whole mess within 24 months with relatively few civilian casualties. But they didn’t. Or they couldn’t.

The very definition of broken-ness, right there.


“No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Albert Einstein


Why Are We Broken?

When the interests of several countries align — and they still can’t put together a unified coalition — it’s a textbook case of a broken international order.

Which is how we stumbled into WWI, WWII, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghan War, and several other conflicts, such as the Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 people in a matter of days. And we know how those wars turned out, and we know how many people were killed in total in those 20th-century conflicts.

The failure of politicians and their diplomats to find better solutions and thereby prevent those wars is appalling beyond any scale that humans can understand.


“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”
Tony Benn


 Sometimes, very complicated problems can stem from a very simple problem.

FOR EXAMPLE: The neighbourhood’s troubled teen filling your car’s fuel tank with water overnight — although a simple act in itself — can cause serious problems after the car is driven the following morning. Such a simple act can cost a vehicle owner hundreds of dollars to repair and cause major inconvenience.

And likewise, every war fought in the 20th-century was caused by an astonishingly simple misunderstanding of human psychology by the world’s politicians and diplomats.

We are broken because those politicians believed that employing ‘Win-Lose’ thinking to solve problems was the preferred path, instead of realizing that ‘Win-Win’ thinking is a higher form of thinking that only humans can employ to solve problems.

Every war since 1900 is the direct result of employing ‘Win-Lose’ thinking to solve political problems. Another way to say it, is that every single death and injury caused by war in the 20th-century is 100% on the heads of the people who practiced politics and diplomacy in that century — because their thinking wasn’t up to the task.

Never in human history had anyone seen bungling on the scale of 20th-century world leaders.

Therefore, as the ‘default mode’ for politicians in the 20th-century was to employ ‘Win-Lose’ thinking, every serious disagreement inexorably turned into war and mega-millions died as a result.

Because the politicians of the day resorted to their animal instincts, over 250 million people were killed in war and in famines caused by war in the 20th-century. Some might call that number a conservative estimate of the total death toll.

Sobering, isn’t it?


Aren’t We Better Than That?

Apparently not. Because even today we’re still using bombs to solve the problems we’re not smart enough to solve. Problems that humans created aren’t being solved, because we’re not using the right methods to solve our problems.

So we bomb our way out of problems.


Using ‘Win-Win’ Thinking to Solve Our Problems

There are few examples of the world’s politicians using ‘Win-Win’ thinking to solve our very human psychological problems.

Ending the Cold War is the stellar achievement for diplomats in the 20th-century. And just in time, because the civilization that humans built over thousands of years came dangerously close to annihilation many times during the Cold War.

Another example of ‘Win-Win’ thinking occurred when the world’s politicians and scientists came together to sign the Montreal Protocol to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons from our supply chains; chemical compounds that were rapidly destroying the Earth’s ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol has been called ‘the most successful accord in history’.

Yet another example of ‘Win-Win’ thinking occurred when the Allied Powers joined forces after World War II to rebuild Europe using the Marshall Plan to fund food aid, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, and to help establish a fairer world order based on peaceful relations. In postwar Japan, the Allied Powers facilitated the country’s rebuilding by purchasing billions of dollars of Japanese goods which benefited the Allied Powers as much as it benefited the former Axis Power.

Without the assistance of these, the most brilliant minds that ever lived, humanity may have become extinct long before the year 2000.

The ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who ended the Cold War, the ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who ended the use of chlorofluorocarbons, and the ‘Win-Win’ thinkers who invested in the former Axis Power economies during the postwar era, changed our world for the better (at the very least) and may be responsible for saving all life on the planet (at best).

Those examples prove ‘Win-Win’ thinking can work to solve our problems and that we don’t need to retain ‘Win-Lose’ thinking as our default problem-solving method.


Regardless of the Method we Choose, we Must Stand Up for Our Principles

President Donald Trump today authorized 3 military strikes inside Syria to hit suspected chemical weapon sites and chemical research and development facilities ostensibly used by the Syrian military.

The president cited Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution in his justification for the attack saying that Syria represented an area of strategic importance to the United States. However, there almost isn’t a place on Earth that is of less strategic importance to the U.S. and its allies, as Syria.

It may be the president misread his teleprompter — because Syria isn’t a strategic place from the U.S. viewpoint — and if he sticks to that view he will spend days or weeks defending this military action to members of the Congress and Senate.

What is of strategic importance to the United States (and what would work for members of Congress charged with upholding the U.S. Constitution) is that preventing the proliferation and use of chemical weapons is of strategic importance to the United States, and therefore, President Trump’s authorization of use of force is justified and necessary, and in the best interest of the United States.

In that way the president’s use of force is legal and justified under the U.S. Constitution, and may also serve as a deterrent to a Syrian regime that seems bent on destroying significant numbers of its population and has refused any chance to allow them escape to another country.


Choosing Humanity vs. Hubris: Why We Fight

Exterminating your own citizens because they have a different political view isn’t acceptable and no doubt President Trump is privy to images and videos from Syria that are marked classified because they’re too horrific for U.S. television viewers to see.

And let’s be honest, seeing those images hastened his decision to veer hard towards military action rather than continuing to employ so-called ‘Soft Power’ to bring about a diplomatic solution to the Syrian debacle.

It may be that punishing Syria each time it uses chemical weapons against civilians or terrorist entities will serve as an effective deterrent. However, Syrian forces may become more adept at hiding such attacks from Western eyes and ears.


“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized.”
Theresa May


Syria’s plan seems to be to kill every terrorist, every non-combatant family member of terrorists, or anyone stuck in areas known to contain terrorist entities.

While this may seem normal to dictators, it is highly offensive to civilized people. Even Syria’s ally Russia, abhors attacks on civilians and non-combatants — and Russian citizens seem extremely offended when chemical attacks are used to solve what are, in the final analysis, human problems for which the diplomats haven’t yet found solutions.


Short-term Deterrence or Long-term Mutual Success?

Whether Tomahawk missile attacks act as a deterrent to Syrian chemical weapons attacks inside Syria, or not — at least President Trump can say that America and its allies didn’t stand idly by and let it happen without challenging it.

Yet, the long-term way to solve this crisis is to show these heinous acts on every television in the world, to explain what is actually occurring there, to make chemical weapons use anywhere unacceptable to everyone, and to use ‘Win-Win’ thinking to save our broken, but still human, civilization.

When we finally adopt ‘Win-Win’ thinking as our default option to deal with human-caused problems, that will be the day that human beings finally surpass the animal kingdom in every way on this planet. And if we don’t, our short break from the threat of Cold War-style Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) will soon be over.

Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?

by John Brian Shannon

A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.

No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.

Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!

But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.

It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.

Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

READ: Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria (Washington Post)

Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.


Parallels With the Vietnam War?

Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.

As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.

‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.

In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.

Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.


What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?

It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.

Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.

The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.

First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!

But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.

And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.


Priorities

  1. Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
  2. Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
  3. Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
  4. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
  5. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
  6. Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.

In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.

The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.

I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.

Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.

Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.

Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.

Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.

How a Pipeline From Iran to Syria Could Bring Peace

by John Brian Shannon

It’s no surprise the wheels are coming off in Syria, and in the absence of an agreement between the various parties regarding Syria at the upcoming Munich Security Conference, things are certain to deteriorate further and at an increased pace.

Therefore, the pressure is on all sides to arrive at a solution to prevent further bloodshed among the civilian population in Syria and to prevent an escalation between the various military groups operating in the region.


Good Intentions Gone Awry

There was at one time, a completely plausible plan for the region that has gone off the rails — not because any side opposed it — but because there was no oversight to bring the plan to fruition.

In between President Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’, the Arab Spring, and the U.S. elections that brought Donald Trump to the White House, the Syrian situation was left unguided and (no surprise!) it therefore deteriorated.

Major powers are now bombing each other’s troops and shooting down each other’s aircraft (and who knows what else is going on that isn’t reported) which makes escalation a foregone conclusion in the absence of leadership and implementation of the original plan.


The Forgotten Plan

Prior to the Syrian conflict the plan for the region was to bring Iranian #2 (sweet) crude oil and Iraqi #3 (semi-sweet) crude oil via a proposed pipeline across the northern part of those countries and across very northern Syria to the Mediterranean for export to Europe, Turkey, and Israel.

Not only would Iranian and Iraqi crude oil be transported by the proposed pipeline, pumping stations along the route would allow Syrian #3 (semi-sweet) crude to be carried by the new pipeline.

Iran’s #2 sweet is highly prized by refineries around the world because it requires much less refining than sour crude oil and it allows a relaxed maintenance schedule for refineries so they can operate continuously for many years before requiring a mandatory and hugely expensive maintenance protocol.

For example, Iran’s #2 sweet oil can be used to blend very sour oil (such as Canadian tar sands oil which is rated at #4.75 sour) to bring it up to a standard where it is acceptable to an oil refinery.

Further on the Canadian example which is very roughly comparable to the problem facing other refineries around the world, Canadian refineries presently purchase huge volumes of Saudi #3 semi-sweet in order to blend with Canada’s toxic #4.75 oil — but access to Iranian sweet would allow Canadian companies to meet refinery standards with much less foreign oil.

In rough terms, a certain refinery in eastern Canada receives one Saudi supertanker per week to blend with Canadian tar sands oil — otherwise the refinery would never agree to process that sour Canadian oil — but if they switched up from Saudi #3 semi-sweet to Iranian #2 sweet it would allow that same refinery to purchase only one supertanker per month to blend with the sour Canadian oil.

It would be a win for Canadian oil producers, a win for the refinery, and a win for consumers as purchasing fewer (expensive) foreign tanker loads leads to lower prices at the gas pump.

The situation is only slightly different in the United States.

Texas still has a small production of #3 sweet crude, while Pennsylvania (where the modern oil business began) has none left whatsoever. Refineries in Texas have for decades gladly accepted #3 Saudi semi-sweet to blend with their #4 sour so they can blend it to meet their target of #3.25 semi-sweet before it hits the refinery — thereby saving the refinery millions of maintenance dollars per year and saving American consumers money at the gas pump.

Even refineries in Europe and Russia benefit from blending sweet or semi-sweet with their oil allowing them to bring their most sour crude to a standard that is acceptable to refineries. Otherwise, all that sour crude would be left in the ground forever.


Enter ISIS and the Kurds

Prior to the Arab Spring, few had heard of the Kurds other than seeing 30-second video clips of their troops helping coalition forces during the Iraq War, and even fewer knew about ISIS.

Buoyed by their participation with the Americans during the Iraq War, the Kurds were also recipients of generous non-American foreign aid. The Kurds (who have some negative ‘history’ with Turkey) decided the proposed pipeline route should be ‘protected’ by their troops as the security situation in northern Iraq was then at an all-time low.

It’s completely logical from their perspective to want to secure those areas and make them part of their traditional Kurdish territory, and this was seen as a ‘minor good’ by Washington and its allies. No doubt the Kurds would have been recipients of even more foreign aid, many pipeline jobs, and they would have been in charge of security along the part of the proposed pipeline corridor that would run through their territory.

ISIS saw the opportunity to steal the default option from the Kurds and fired the first shot.

Hence we now have Americans fighting ISIS and sometimes using the Kurds to do it. We have Turkey and the Kurds fighting each other. We have the Russians helping Syria. And we have various other countries supporting those or other groups operating in the region. Finally, we have the long-term and largely stalemated situation that exists between Israel and Syria.

A recipe for disaster, if ever there were one.


Vision, Leadership and Management – the Only Solution to This Problem

Instead of a Munich Security Conference that degenerates into shouting match, all sides should return to the forgotten plan and concentrate on making that plan the new reality.

Bringing Iranian sweet crude oil, Iraqi semi-sweet crude oil and Syrian semi-sweet to the Mediterranean via a new pipeline system through traditional and newly created Kurdish territories across northern Iraq and very northern Syria while continuing to finish off ISIS and working to mitigate Turkish concerns about the Kurds is the only real way forward.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey map.

Internationally recognized Kurdish territories span northern Iraq and northern Syria which could allow a direct Iran, Iraq, Syrian oil pipeline to the Mediterranean to bring high quality Iranian #2 sweet crude oil to Europe, Turkey, Israel and even to North America. Image courtesy of Iran Review.

Whether the parties agree to redirect their energies now, or at a later date, it’s the only option that solves everyone’s problems in the region.

The plan depends on the extinction of ISIS and that seems as worthy a goal as ever while accommodating the Kurds is simply an extension of what’s already been happening.

Solving the security concerns of Turkey is paramount to bring the plan forward.

The world needs that high quality oil and it’s in the interest of the parties to get that pipeline system built and operational as soon as possible.

The UK government can play as honorable a part as any country to bring this ongoing political disaster to a successful conclusion by promoting the Iran / northern Iraq / northern Syria pipeline that would span old and newly created Kurdish territory to bring exceptionally high quality oil to Europe, Turkey, Israel and even North America.

It’s time to stop looking at the problem and begin working on the solution.