SUBHEAD: Nature’s way of correcting those imbalances is very ugly, and easily mistaken for mere politics.

By James Kunstler on 2 April 2018 for -

Image above: Before and After photos of a street in Homs, Syria, after attempt to end terrorism there. From (
[IB Publisher's comment: "In order to save the village, we had to destroy it." Quote attributed to unidentified US Army Major concerning Ben Tre, South Vietnam reported by AP correspondent Peter Arnett, "Major Describes Move"in the New York Times (February 8, 1968), p. 14.]
“Peace with Honor” was President Nixon’s anodyne phrase for futzing around as long as possible in Vietnam to conceal the reality that the US military was getting its ass kicked by what we had initially thought was a 98-pound weakling of a Third World country.

That was a half-century ago and I remember it now at age 106 thanks to my diet of kale and pepperoni sticks.

Not ironically, the long struggle finally ended a few years after Nixon quit the scene, with the last straggling American evacuees waiting desperately for helicopter airlifts off the US embassy roof. And now, of course, Vietnam is a tourism hot-spot.

And so just the other day, the latest POTUS declared (in his usual way) that “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” The utterance sent the neocon partisans in government into a paroxysm.

Cries of “Say What?” echoed up and down the Great Mall. Which “other people” was Mr. Trump referring to? The United Auto Workers? Gandalf the Grey? The cast of Glee?

I doubt that the average Harvard faculty member can state with any conviction what the fuck is going on in Syria.

Vietnam was like a simple game of Animal Lotto compared to the mystifying puzzle of Syria. And then, of course, once you get handle on who the players are, it’s another matter altogether to descry what US interests there might be.

One angle of the story is whether it is in America’s interest for Syria to become another failed state in a region of several other failed states.

Whatever else you might say about US policy in that part of the world, the general result in places like Iraq, Libya, and Yemen has been anarchy and irresolvable factional conflict.

In today’s world of nation-states, a central government is required to avoid that fate, and the embattled one in Syria happens to be the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The US has long militated for the overthrow of Assad, but I would also challenge you (and the Harvard faculty) to name any credible party or person who we have hypothetically proposed to replace him with.

You might argue that the Great Age of Nation States is winding down, that the world does not need them anymore, that they are the cause of too much strife and anguish.

But then you would have to account for all the strife and anguish that occupied the world when it was composed of petty kingdoms, principalities, fiefdoms, and tribes.

And, of course, following that logic you’d also have to inquire into the legitimacy of the US government — which, by the way, California is well into testing these days.

One might also propose that the battlefield of Syria, with its array of militant religious maniac armies, is just a proxy action for the tag-teams of the USA/Israel versus Russia/Iran. If so, the US has not been very clear or honest about it.

Anyway, it has hardly been demonstrated that Russia is all that comfortable with Iran extending its influence to the Mediterranean Sea.

I would take Russia’s presence in Syria as an attempt to block, or at least moderate, Iran’s influence there — which is one of the arguments for a US/Russia partnership in cleaning up the mess there.

That possible outcome has been hugely compromised by the "RussiaRussiaRussia!" hysteria engineered by the neocon warhawks of the US permanent bureaucracy (a.k.a. the Deep State).

The latest ploy by these players is the overcooked story of Vladimir Putin personally moving to poison the Russian/British double agent Skripal (and daughter) in Salisbury, UK.

Given the extremely lethal nature of the supposed poison, Novichok, and the method supposedly used (smearing it on the Skripal doorknob), it’s hard to believe that the Skripals were able to walk to the park bench where they collapsed, nor that other persons ranging from the police to the medical examiners didn’t come into contact with the substance and fall ill.

But this is the sort of cockamamie melodrama that it has come down to on our side of the gameboard.

The other part of the story worth considering is this: Syria, like other new-ish nations of the Middle East, was able to hugely increase its population in the post-WW2 era due to oil wealth (now all but gone in Syria), and other perks of modernity like cheap grains for feeding all the newcomers.

Dwindling oil revenue and severe drought (arguably induced by climate change) that caused crop failures commenced in 2006.

So Syria became a workshop study in population overshoot and resource scarcity — problems that are sure to spread around other regions of the world in the years ahead. Nature’s way of correcting those imbalances is very ugly, and easily mistaken for mere politics.


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