12 Sep 2013

More Middle East Map Fun

Foreign Policy, Oil 41 Comments

Whenever the US government tells us how awful a regime is, and why military action is urgently needed, I like to look at a map. (I did this exercise back when the Iranians were the Nazi Germany of the day.) So here you go:

For what it’s worth, in 1994 the Rwandan genocide supposedly involved the systematic slaughter of 500,000 people in 100 days. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the US government’s actions surrounding this inconceivable nightmare:

There were no U.S. troops officially in Rwanda at the onset of the genocide. A National Security Archive report points out five ways in which decisions made by the U.S. government contributed to the slow U.S. and worldwide response to the genocide:
The U.S. lobbied the U.N. for a total withdrawal of U.N. (UNAMIR) forces in Rwanda in April 1994;
Secretary of State Warren Christopher did not authorize officials to use the term “genocide” until May 21, and even then, U.S. officials waited another three weeks before using the term in public;
Bureaucratic infighting slowed the U.S. response to the genocide in general;
The U.S. refused to jam extremist radio broadcasts inciting the killing, citing costs and concern with international law;
U.S. officials knew exactly who was leading the genocide, and actually spoke with those leaders to urge an end to the violence but did not follow up with concrete action.[87]
Intelligence reports indicate that President Clinton and his cabinet were aware before the height of the massacre that a “final solution to eliminate all Tutsis” was planned.

In other news, earlier this year North Korea announced that it had conducted yet another nuclear test in defiance of the Western governments. The Obama Administration is not telling the American people that we need to bomb North Korea to stop the spread of WMDs.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe people from the US government telling me they want to bomb Syria in order to save innocent people’s lives and to contain the spread of WMDs.

41 Responses to “More Middle East Map Fun”

  1. Joseph Fetz says:

    Keep in mind that Iran and Syria entered into a mutual defense treaty back in 2006.

  2. von Pepe says:

    What is the easiest route for a natural gas pipeline for Suadi and Qatar gas to Europe?

    Does Russia want more natural gas to flow to Europe?

  3. David R. Henderson says:

    Bob, Well reasoned. I’m wondering what we were supposed to get out of the map.

  4. Scott H. says:

    To subtle for me Bob. What’s your point?

  5. Blackadder says:

    Dude, look at the map. Syria is only one country away from Georgia. If we don’t attack, they could be in Atlanta by the end of the month.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      When there’s no Turkey at Thanksgiving because of a refugee problem, you won’t think you’re so funny.

      • Cosmo Kramer says:


      • Tel says:

        You’ll have to find something else to Greece your chin.

        • Cody S says:

          Then you’ll be Hungary.

          • JimS says:

            I’ll be out at the karaoke bar shaking my Djibouti. Oh Yemen!

      • Z says:

        Then your stomach won’t grow and there won’t be a Bulge area (Bulgaria) there.

      • JimS says:

        You could always eat at the New Dehli.

  6. Bob Murphy says:

    David and Scott H., perhaps the problem is that you’re good at geography and realized Syria was smack dab in the middle of where US forces have been fighting since the last major invasions. I think most Americans (myself included) only had a vague idea that Syria was literally on the border of Iraq, and so the claims that this is about “containing WMDs” and “saving innocent lives” seem implausible.

    • Mike T says:

      Incidentally, who would have guessed several years ago that there would have been a situation today with some refugees fleeing *to* Iraq.

    • Matt M. (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Bob, doesn’t that almost play into their arguments?

      I’ve seen some memes on Facebook (presumably created by neocons) of pictures of a laughing GWB captioned: “And then, the Democrats said there were no WMDs in the middle east!”

      I also saw one guy (although this is probably not a common belief) make the argument that before the war in Iraq started, Saddam sent all of his chemical weapons over to Syria for safekeeping.

      • Ken B says:

        “I also saw one guy (although this is probably not a common belief) make the argument that before the war in Iraq started, Saddam sent all of his chemical weapons over to Syria for safekeeping.”

        Quite commonly argued at the time, and a small such cache was actually found a couple years ago. I don’t have a link but someone posted one over at Henderson’s once when I said no such caches were found.

        Not an implauisble theory but one lacking a lot of *ahem* empirical support.

      • Blackadder says:

        I’ve seen some memes on Facebook (presumably created by neocons) of pictures of a laughing GWB captioned: “And then, the Democrats said there were no WMDs in the middle east!”

        Obviously not a regular reader of this blog.

  7. Bob Roddis says:

    Not to be a fussbudget, but your old map does not contain South Sudan.


  8. JimS says:

    Of course you are a cynic. You say that as though there is something wrong with that.

    From our point of view, you are correct, there is no compellable reason to enter the Syrian conflict. Who know what the State’s true POV is? That is certainly anybody’s guess.

    Given who is in charge, we may be playing a fool’s game to try and descern any form of rationalilty in what the government does.

  9. Bob Roddis says:

    I submit that the “establishment” response to our critique of the foreign empire is just as vacuous and pathetic as the response to basic Austrian and libertarian concepts. There is no engagement with or understanding of our actual arguments and the response consists entirely of defining us outside of polite company.

  10. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I think they genuinely want to stop atrocities and WMDs among other goals they are less willing to state publicly (deposing anti-US strongmen, breaking the Russian gas monopoly in Europe, weakening opponents of Israel). The thing to remember is that the trade-offs in all these cases are not equal.

    Getting WMDs away from North Korea risks a nuclear exchange in a way that getting them from Syria doesn’t.

    Stopping atrocities in Syria has the added plus of achieving goals associated with anti-US strongmen, Israel, and energy in a way that stopping atrocities in Rwanda wouldn’t.

    So I don’t think these counter-cases quite demonstrate that we don’t care about atrocities or WMDs, but they do help to illuminate other elements of the equation (which reflects well on the government in some cases and poorly in others).

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      “I think they genuinely want to stop atrocities”
      -I don’t think so. Keeping Assad besieged, but not defeated, has the advantage of keeping Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Iranian advisors all tied up in numerous stalemates on half a dozen major fronts in a country whose government was so anti-American, it continued to support Saddam after it was obvious the U.S. was going to invade. If Obama had wanted a total rebel victory, it would have already happened. Overthrowing the Assad regime became extremely risky for the U.S. after the Battle of ar-Raqqa.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      DK wrote:

      So I don’t think these counter-cases quite demonstrate that we don’t care about atrocities or WMDs…

      Of course we care about atrocities and WMDs. I was saying the people in the US government don’t.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        What are they – reptilians? I figured they were part of “we”.

      • Ken B says:

        Your complaint is a bit odd Bob. Youwant them to do nothing, but now you seem to be concerned that they do nothing for the right reason. How very Kantian.

        There’s a serious point here. I think free people always have the right to act against despots, and to defend victims of atrocity, but that doesn’t mean I think we always should. And I think war is always au unappealling option, but that doesn’t mean I never support intervention.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      It’s long been obvious that the goal of US “policy makers” (la-di-da) has been to turn the few remaining secular Arab countries into Mad Max zones as in Libya.


      I used to think that the “policy makers” (la-di-da) were just arrogant and oblivious to the mayhem they caused. But since 2009, I’ve come to the conclusion that they actually like causing the mayhem they cause.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      More of the handiwork of our “policy makers” helping the downtrodden in Libya. Kinda like what they did for Detroit, but only a lot faster.


    • Sandre says:

      BS. We all genuinely want to stop atrocities. However the priorities of the government are crystal clear. Foreign policy is not driven by compassion for the victims of atrocities, but primarily by other interests many of which you have listed. It is always worth asking why some of these strongmen are pro-US and some aren’t. Some were once pro before they turned against the U.S

  11. Cody S says:

    In point of fact, they do not care about atrocities. Just look at the “Red Line.” We spent a year watching people die in Syria; the red line was when we saw “a bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being used.”

    So long as he stays with the high explosives, artillery, tanks and helicopters, Assad is doing nothing we are going to get upset about. Not fightin’ upset, anyway.

    The assumption that Assad’s Syria is going to treat differently with the Russians than a rebel government would, as well as tipping the scales in either direction for Israel under the same dichotomy, is being somewhat presumptuous.

    As to the rumors of Saddam hiding WMDs in Syria, the rumors have existed since the extended run-up to war in 2003, with the presentations before the UN, inspectors running around and getting expelled from Iraq, etc. Specifically, I remember references to airlifts, truck convoys, Syria and the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, from the time of the invasion, ’03-’04. US Intel officials and Iraqi defectors have made similar claims. No idea how true they were, but they have existed for a decade.

  12. joe says:

    Nothing was done in Rwanda because stopping the genocide required troops on the ground and there was no public support for troops on the ground to stop the slaughter of black people. If it could have been stopped with a simple missile strike, then something would have been done.

  13. Tony Hoffer says:

    Seven countries in 5 years… The Music is a little annoying. But its short..


  14. Innocent says:

    At times you are Damned if you do Damned if you don’t.

    When is it okay to intervene in another countries affairs with the use of military force? Is it okay to slaughter people by the thousands with bullets but not okay to do so with WMD’s?

    Look I do not have a solution because it depends on your ‘belief’ of what is right and wrong. Why did the USA not support Iran back in what 2010? Why was it okay to Bomb Libya but NOT okay to Bomb Syria. What was Libya doing that is different? Did they use WMD’s?

    When it comes to international policies I think the real question is what are we supposed to do? Do we send Americans to die in order to protect innocents? Do we force OUR belief system of a Constitutional Republic on others?

    Is Iraq better off now than when Saddam ran it? Is it worth the blood price paid?

    I am uncertain.

    • guest says:

      Third Annual Message to Congress by Thomas Jefferson

      “We have seen with sincere concern the flames of war lighted up again in Europe, and nations with which we have the most friendly and useful relations engaged in mutual destruction. While we regret the miseries in which we see others involved let us bow with gratitude to that kind Providence which, inspiring with wisdom and moderation our late legislative councils while placed under the urgency of the greatest wrongs, guarded us from hastily entering into the sanguinary contest, and left us only to look on and to pity its ravages. These will be heaviest on those immediately engaged. Yet the nations pursuing peace will not be exempt from all evil. In the course of this conflict, let it be our endeavor, as it is our interest and desire, to cultivate the friendship of the belligerent nations by every act of justice and of incessant kindness; to receive their armed vessels with hospitality from the distresses of the sea, but to administer the means of annoyance to none; to establish in our harbors such a police as may maintain law and order; to restrain our citizens from embarking individually in a war in which their country takes no part; to punish severely those persons, citizen or alien, who shall usurp the cover of our flag for vessels not entitled to it, infecting thereby with suspicion those of real Americans, and committing us into controversies for the redress of wrongs not our own …”

      Washington’s Farewell Address

      “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

      Constitutional Problems With the Libyan War

      Why did the US intervene in a civil war in a country that has neither attacked us nor poses a threat? We are told this was another humanitarian intervention, like Clinton’s 1999 war against Serbia. But as civilian victims of the US-led coalition bombing continue to add up, it is getting difficult to determine whether the problem we are creating on the ground is worse than the one we were trying to solve.

      Though the administration seems to be playing with semantics, calling this a “kinetic military action,” let’s be clear: this is a US act of war on Libya. Imposing a no-fly zone over the air space of a sovereign nation is an act of war, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out before the bombing began. That the administration hesitates to call this war, possibly due to the troubling Constitutional implications, does not mean that it is not one. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution could not be clearer: the power and obligation to declare war resides solely in the US Congress.

      Will Congress Endorse Obama’s War Plans? Does it Matter?

      President Obama announced this weekend that he has decided to use military force against Syria and would seek authorization from Congress when it returned from its August break. Every Member ought to vote against this reckless and immoral use of the US military. But even if every single Member and Senator votes for another war, it will not make this terrible idea any better because some sort of nod is given to the Constitution along the way.

      The President on Saturday claimed that the alleged chemical attack in Syria on August 21 presented “a serious danger to our national security.” I disagree with the idea that every conflict, every dictator, and every insurgency everywhere in the world is somehow critical to our national security. That is the thinking of an empire, not a republic. It is the kind of thinking that this president shares with his predecessor and it is bankrupting us and destroying our liberties here at home.

      Another UN War?

      President Bush Sr. proudly spoke of “The New World Order,” a term used by those who promote one-world government under the United Nations. In going to war in 1991, he sought and received UN authority to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. He forcefully stated that this UN authority was adequate, and that although a congressional resolution was acceptable, it was entirely unnecessary and he would proceed regardless. At that time there was no discussion regarding a congressional declaration of war. The first Persian Gulf War therefore was clearly a UN, political war fought within UN guidelines, not for U.S. security — and it was not fought through to victory. The bombings, sanctions, and harassment of the Iraqi people have never stopped. We are now about to resume the active fighting. Although this is referred to as the second Persian Gulf War, it’s merely a continuation of a war started long ago, and is likely to continue for a long time even after Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

      Our attitude toward the United Nations is quite different today compared to 1991. I have argued for years against our membership in the United Nations because it compromises our sovereignty.

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      “When is it okay to intervene in another countries affairs with the use of military force?”
      -When the country is directly threatening us (Japan, 1941) or when it’ll actually help the humanitarian situation.
      “Why was it okay to Bomb Libya but NOT okay to Bomb Syria.”
      The presence of much oil in Libya, Syria’s proximity to Israel, the Kurdish dilemma, the great ethnic diversity of Syria, the fact Libya has less people than New York City while Syria has more people than New York State, the Russian acceptance of Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011), and Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with Assad than with Gaddafi.
      “Is Iraq better off now than when Saddam ran it? Is it worth the blood price paid?”

      • guest says:

        The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable

        Twelve days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt surprised his advisors by saying that war with Japan was about to begin. Secretary of War Stimson noted in his diary:

        The question was what we should do. The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.

        Backing Japan Into a Corner

        • Tel says:

          Never the less, Japan had a choice, a real choice in whether they went to war, but Iraq did not.

          That may sound like splitting hairs, but it makes all the difference.

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