Dieu est d'ordinaire pour les gros escadrons contre les petits. God is generally for the big squadrons against the little ones.” - Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy

The news is full of stories of the battle for Aleppo. On social media and in newspapers, outraged journalists and people are begging for… what exactly? An end to the conflict? #stopthemassacre? In this post, we’ll take a very cold look at the situation.

There is a lot of indignation for the atrocities of the Syrian war and this is right. What is wrong is that the indignant people live in some kind of fairy tale where their well wishing ideas are smashed by the cold reality of power. Syria is the perfect example of a civil war gone out of control because it is sustained by powerful outside powers. These wars are long, which results in increased horrors and a self feeding mechanism of hatred that cannot stop without: 1. foreign powers agreeing to end the conflict; 2. a clear winner (most likely through military victory).

In the Western world, the Manichean vision of the world with good guys and bad guys is leading politicians to take decisions that are inappropriate or outright harmful for the situation. The news likes to put forward horrible stories that stir emotions and sell their content, while it is now impossible to express realpolitik opinions anywhere because of the political correctness that avoids taking a hard look at the facts.

These well wishing ideas of love and compassion may be directly inherited from famous nonviolent actions such as those of Gandhi or the civil right movement. In our view, the wrong conclusions where derived from their victory: nonviolence was the most effective method to address the issues they were facing. It is not because nonviolence is a superior method, though except morally.

While we surely recommend to use nonviolent means, some situations call for the use of force: you cannot fight against Islamic extremism with prayers and nice words. If you bow to extremism in the hope that they will change their attitude thank to the kindness of your actions, you are wrong. Coming back to Syria, this means that if Western public opinion wants to stop the war there, it cannot do it with words, articles and social media. Indeed, if it wants to stop this civil war, Western public opinion must be ready to:

  • Further confront Russia (if Russia is identified as the main threat for Europe);
  • Be ready to deploy large numbers (US government troops in Iraq peaked at 166,000+ and 100,000+ in Afghanistan) to act as enforcers of Western policies;
  • Spend taxpayer revenues (i.e. their own money) on this operation;
  • Deal with deaths of their military personnel;
  • Deal with the obvious consequences such as terrorist attacks at home in answer to ‘infidel occupations’;
  • Deal with the uncertainty of results.

The Russian government is willing to take the risks and spend the money, though the Russian people may be less happy about it. But the Russians understand power. And the West is powerless in face of this obvious fact. The Russians know it and they don’t really care about what is said on Facebook or the printed press.

In Europe, the willingness to cut military budgets leads to a proportional inability to shape conflicts outside its own borders. At the same time, Europeans increasingly demand their government to end injustice and suffering around the world. But they do not see this obvious disconnect. They live in a fairy tale. And they don’t understand power. Social media is not a source of power: it is a place where people shout at each others and where complex geopolitical matters are ignored while emotional videos hijack rational decisions.

Finally, it is important to note that Europe achieved peace after 30 years of destruction and ethnic cleansing. The 1945 borders are very much those defined in 1919, except that the populations were homogenized thanks to displacements and death. In addition, two powerful military powers enforced their policies on the European countries. In the Middle East, the borders created arbitrarily in 1921 still don’t match the local tribes, religions and ethnicity. In light of this fact, it would be wise not to expect peace in the Middle East anytime soon.

To stop the Syrian war, Western countries must be ready to deal with the shades of grey that compose our world. There is no easy solutions. As the world continues to shift to a multilateral power structure, something will have to give.

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Mass Extinction and Mass Insanity – “Saying that ‘it’s not too late’ is not a call to action as many people continue to believe. It’s just dirt poor psychology. It provides people with the impression, which rapidly turns into an excuse, that there is still time left.

Saudi Arabia Surrenders To U.S. Shale – “So even after surrendering to Iran, and assuming the Russians can be generally corralled to accept cuts of their own, there is a final problem with the Saudi inspired OPEC accord. The cuts are estimated to leave global oil production at 32.5m bpd, a historically high rate of supply unlikely to lead to much of a rise in the price of energy at all.

History & Geopolitics

After the Islamic State – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “This is what makes me fear that Daesh may be defeated politically and militarily but the idea won’t die. If the region were stable, there would be no place for Daesh to reëmerge. But it isn’t stable. The same thing that happened in Syria or Libya could happen in Algeria or Morocco or someplace else in this chaos.

Obama’s tenure ends with a turf war over killing terrorists – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “One unlikely legacy of Obama’s presidency is that he made the secret, once-impermissible tactic of targeted killing the preferred tool of American counterterrorism policy.

L’Arabie Saoudite revient-elle dans la cour des grands ? – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud joue gros –et même son propre avenir– puisqu’il espère ainsi doubler le prince héritier légitime et Ministre de l’Intérieur du Royaume, Muhammad bin Nayef. Ses chances de bouleverser l’ordre de succession au trône séoudien sont désormais dépendantes des prix du pétrole, sachant que son pays a besoin d’un baril dépassant 55 dollars pour équilibrer son budget.

Finance & Economics

What would a US-China trade war look like? – “While China still has the biggest “responsibility” for the US’s trade deficit, its share is only 16.4 percent. It is nowhere near the jaw-dropping 49.6 percent in Figure 1, which is about the combined share of the top 4 surplus partners (China, Japan, Germany and Korea) in the value-added based decomposition. […] So, a trade war with China is also one with China, Japan, Germany and Korea!

Picture of the day: Battle for Aleppo


About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi