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So What's Up With This Whole Syria Thing?

Based off of "9 Questions about Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask." by Max Fisher, Washington Post

Gene Porcelli

on 25 September 2013

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Transcript of So What's Up With This Whole Syria Thing?

So What's Up
With This Whole
Syria Thing?



Not much can be predicted about a post-war Syria
Excuse me Mr. Porcelli, there was too much text so I decided to nap a bit until we got to the end here. What’s the big take away?
What’s going to happen?
This norm is frail enough that Assad could drastically weaken it if we ignore his use of them, but strong enough that it may be worth protecting.
Come on, what’s the big deal with chemical weapons? Assad kills 100,000 people with bullets and bombs but we’re freaked out over 1,000 who *maybe* died from poisonous gas?
That seems silly.
sees Syria as a buffer zone from the US-Israel alliance and ships weapons to Lebanon based Hezbollah through Syria.
Iran worries that if Assad falls, it will be vulnerable and cut off from its military proxies
I hear a lot about how Russia still loves Syria though. And Iran too. What’s their deal?

This becomes much harder to believe if the norm is weakened by someone like Assad and gets away with it
…You didn’t answer my question. That just tells me that we can maybe preserve the norm against chemical weapons,
not why we should.

Would require US to impose order for years across a country full of people trying to kill each other.
Why hasn’t the US fixed this yet? Syriasly.

But this time there was social media like Facebook and Twitter to help the resistance organize
That’s horrible. But there have been protests all over the place. How did it all go so wrong in Syria? And please, just give me the short version.

April, 2011 - Inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Syrian civilians began to challenge the dictatorship running the country

War continues into 2nd year with entire towns being destroyed with artillery, bombs, and allegedly chemical gas
Okay, So... Why Are They Killing Each Other?

Country in the Middle East
What is Syria?
So why would Obama bother with strikes that no one expects to actually solve anything?

Would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future leader of any future war, from using them again.

Bad Assad!
Civilization has existed in Syria for thousands of years, but modern country/borders are young (1920’s Euro colonial powers)
Very diverse, but mostly ethnically Arab and religiously Sunni Muslim
About the size of Washington State with triple the pop. (22 mil)
Borders Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan
Syrian Govt. responded to protests by:
Shooting into crowds
Kidnapping, torturing, raping, and killing activists and their families
Dumping bodies on roads as warnings
Syrian civilians start to shoot back, & form loose rebel groups/Civil war starts
Volunteers from other countries jump in to help rebels overthrow dictatorship
Including islamic extremists like
the Muslim Brotherhood
and terrorist groups like
Al Qaeda
Simple version: When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Syria is a very diverse country:
Ethnic Arabs
Ethnic Kurds
Arab Christians
Coptic Christians
Sunni Muslims
Shiite Muslims
All brought together through European colonial powers drawing lines on maps.
Bashar al-Assad, this guy -->
kept competing factions in check with an iron fist, desperately holding onto power through cruel military oppression
Met protests with extreme brutality to quickly silence opposition as his father did in the 1980s
keeps blocking the UN from doing anything about Assad, why?
1) Russia has naval bases in Syria, strategically important, and last military base outside of former Soviet Union
2) Russia sees international intervention as Cold War-style western imperialism and ultimately a threat to Russia’s influence in the region
3) Syria buys a lot of Russia’s military exports, and Russia needs the money
No good options for the US to take:
Shipping arms to rebels would empower Jihadists, like Al Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood
Which rebels do we support!?
Even if Assad is toppled, competing factions will fight with US weapons to fill the power vacuum.
Civil War part II – The Jihadists Strike Back
Air-strikes probably wouldn’t make much difference on the ground & would suck us in, committing us to a conflict for years
Iraq-style ground invasion would accelerate killing, cost US lives, and create anti-America sentiment for Jihadists to rally behind.
Despite not doing much to turn the tide of war, a cruise missile strike against Assad would be a geo-political maneuver
In theory, this is a chance for the US to help make this war (& future wars) a little bit *less* terrible.
War has been around since sticks and stones were breaking bones
Rules of war/attempts to make war less terrible have been around for less than a century
These “rules” are weak & only exist by the power that we all agree to follow them
Many rules are not well observed but one of the worlds few quasi-successes is the “norm” against chemical weapons
Fair point
Wars happen, no stopping it
But chemical weapon bans were not meant to stop war
Chemical weapons are really good killing civilians and really bad at destroying conventional targets of war
30% battlefield weapon, 70% tool of terror
If use of chemical weapons becomes the norm, militaries may deploy sarin gas to gain slight battlefield advantage, while decimating civilian populations
If one side believes the other will use gas, it has a strong incentive to use it themselves
Both sides become better off if neither use it, but this only happens if both sides believe the other won’t
Short-term is up in the air at this point:
Maybe the US & allies will launch limited strikes against Syria.
Maybe they won’t
The killing will likely continue, probably for years.
There is no foreseeable victory for either side right now.
Refugees will continue to flee to neighboring countries, causing instability and an entire other humanitarian crisis
Syria as we know it, an ancient place with rich & celebrated cultural history will be a broken, failed society for a long time.
Russia will continue to block international action.
At some point the conflict will cool, either from partial victory or exhaustion.
Fisher, Max. "9 Questions about Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask."
The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web.
Short Answer: It can't
This Prezi is based off of the article "9 Questions about Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask" by Max Fisher, Washington Post
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