‘Houston–we have a problem’

There is now little doubt that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The Americans at this time say they ‘know’ that these weapons have been used by those allied to the Assad Regime, based on their evidence. The Russians say the evidence doesn’t prove that.

Cameron was defeated in Parliament on a motion to strike Syria. Obama has taken to Congress, the issue of whether to strike Syria, and has asserted that he can strike even without the support of Congress’s vote. In interesting ‘gamble’.[See: New Statesman]

70719So what’s the problem? Whose problem is this? The jobbing Brit has basically decided, "It’s none of my business".

I’m wondering if Mr Jobbing Brit and his family were victims of a similar poison gas attack the killed 1429 people, would ‘he’ feel it was also nobody else’s business. I mean there is a basic principle of morality – in general – that what you apply to others must in the reverse situation apply to you, given the identical set of circumstances.

But the polls have asked the wrong question. They haven’t asked about ‘principle’. They haven’t asked,Is it morally correct to leave Syria to gas it’s own people with  chemical weapons (prohibited by international law)” or “Is  attack ‘an’ or ‘the’ appropriate response?”  Instead they’ve been asking something along the lines of “Do we attack or not?” The latter sort of question is truly dumb! But hey – it sells the news – and I’m nobody. And I’m selling nothing.

Dumb? Yes – it’s a dumb question because it’s like asking a 10 year old whether planet earth should invest resources in landing a man on Mars.  Do we really expect an average 10 year old to have access to all relevant information and weigh all that in the balance in a short amount of time. Well – similarly the average lip-flapping Brit, doesn’t know the depths of the Syrian situation, or about how instability in the Middle East is likely to affect the world – and possibly backfire onto their own patch (if no action is taken). S/he doesn’t know about terror cells in the Middle East and how they may be linked to the rest of the world. And neither would I know about such things. The range of information to be considered is well known to the ‘intelligence’ services on both sides of the pond (aka the Atlantic i.e. America and Europe).

But here’s another problem. Politicians and plebs are both caught in the same nervous state – fearing a repeat of circumstances leading to the attack on Iraq – and all that flowed from that. Hence the obsessionality about seeking ‘scientific’ proof of the use of chemical weapons – as if to say somebody put up scores of child-actors to run around looking scared and holding their noses, or pretending to be dead. Or some idiot is about to say, “Maybe they were running from a blast which broke a sewer, and the resulting stench.” Well, it must have been such an act – where hundreds of people died – some 400 of them children – with no puncture wounds to their bodies. You see that’s not good enough scientific evidence – no – we need to drill down to the molecular composition of the agent that killed them. Oh really?! As I’ve said before in other ways, ‘logic is often the slave of the emotions’. And this is no finer an example. Logic has been set on an expedition to find proof of ‘nerve gas’ when logic already can see that the deaths must have been caused by some agent that doesn’t puncture the human body. I call that gas – based on the particular circumstances! No – I don’t think  it was a liquid or some paste and there is no indication that it was ‘radiation’.

So the UN will return to say something like, ‘Our investigations lead us to conclude that a gaseous toxic substance was the cause of the deaths in Syria on 21st August.’ And I’ll exhale whilst having fantasies of strangling someone. Yuh know – don’t we bledy well know that already? Oh – oh .. this is about proof and authority of the UN – is it? There we are – authority trumping logic.

But don’t get me wrong, I too feel a gap between what I know in principle must be right – and the reality of attacking another nation in order to demonstrate that principle. Some are lost already. Tough.

Sometimes you do what’s right and it ends up all wrong. By that, I mean in doing what is right, the consequences end up being far more complex, disastrous, costly or even fatal. So what do we do? How is humanity to operate. Should humanity do nothing about anything because it cannot foresee complex future consequences, and live in fear? Should humanity’s decisions be subject to or limited by a) the unknown and/or b) the prospect of greater harm? Is the decision about the risk of doing something compared to the risk of doing nothing? But ‘risk’ has to be assessed against a number of parameters:

  1. When, how and where it may materialise?
  2. Can championing a risk in the short term increase or decrease risks in other areas in the future? [Those who know the game of Chess, will understand how short term strategies that win may leave ‘holes’ for a counter strategy to capitalise on.]

But there is another problem? We cannot foresee 100 years of our future. If for example the world decides –  not to punitively strike Syria for a purported use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime – and avoids say a predictable long term war erupting in the Middle East – that destabilises world economy for the next 30 years, then what next? How – will dictators, who in the future decide to use chemical weapons be dealt with? Will the International Criminal Court become more robust and rapid?

Perhaps we’re entering a new ‘world order’. Perhaps – if nothing happens  – and hopefully (cautious about it) humanity is moved to another way of dealing with the murkiness of situations that emerge where chemical weapons are used. War may not be the way to deal with it – but we have to find a more effective way.

[Nothing in this post shall be used to say that I implied one thing or another. What I have reported here are assumed facts given to me by the media and recorded media clips. I have no first hand access to the facts]

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