Thinking about Syria

abdul el bulbul ameerAfter hearing from several hundred constituents at our Syria listening sessions and from phone calls and emails to our office, it is clear United States military action in Syria is not what residents of the 23rd district want. Absent some compelling information, I remain opposed to action and share many of the same concerns constituents have presented to me. Constituents are concerned about being drawn into a lengthy conflict which may ultimately require increased involvement and put American lives at risk. We are responding to the concerns of our constituents with this letter because these are valid concerns which the (Obama) Administration has not addressed.–Rep. Tom Reed, September 5, 2013

Thinking about Syria and reading about the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922 in Wikipedia, I read:

Mustafa Kemal presented himself as revolutionary to the communists, protector of tradition and order to the conservatives, patriot soldier to the nationalists, and a Muslim leader for the religious, so he was able to recruit all Turkish elements and motivate them to fight. 

This makes me wonder about Donald Trump–is his success based on presenting himself as a defender of the faith, a proponent of business interests, a man of the people, an all-knowing father, and a military leader? Do some 40% of us see it that way?


According to the treaty of Sèvres (1920) after WWI, Anatolia was divided up. Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal, aka Atatürk, did not accept this. Military success in the Greco-Turkish war led to the Treaty of Lausanne which reestablished Turkey as a state in Anatolia and Thrace. Syria, given to the French, did not achieve independence at this time.

Why are dictatorships common; do they provide internal peace and stability that democracies cannot? Should the passing of multicultural empires, Austro-Hungarian, British,Dutch, French, German, Ottoman, Russian be regretted?

About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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10 Responses to Thinking about Syria

  1. Rynstone says:

    One of the reasons Trump was elected was because he said many times he would remove our military from Syria. He knows we should not have any military troops in Syria. They are there illegally.
    Many of us were very disappointed when the Trump Administration US military spent millions in cruise missiles launched at Syria a year ago.
    The US military also should not be in Africa.

    The Obama Administration never should have been involved in the removal of Muammar Gaddafdi in Libya.
    This aided to the Arab Spring and the Syrian debacle of a civil war. This also gave us “Hillary and Obama lied and Americans died in Benghazi ! “


  2. whungerford says:

    Former Secretary of State Tillerson articulated a policy on Syria:Here is a list of Tillerson’s five points:

    1. ISIS and al Qaeda must “suffer an enduring defeat.”
    2. “…a stable, unified, independent Syria, under post-Assad leadership, is functioning as a state.”
    3. Iranian influence in Syria must be “diminished”.
    4. “refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people) can begin to safely and voluntarily return to Syria.”
    5. Syria must be “free of weapons of mass destruction.”

    For better or worse, Tillerson had a policy; now we have none.


  3. josephurban says:

    The Middle East is a very complex and diverse area. Keep in mind that some of the “nations” were formed by the colonial powers, mainly the British. So, Iraq was never a united political entity, it was a nation in which three hostile groups, the Sunni, the Shi’a and the Kurds, were thrust together and could only be held together by a dictatorship.And the west got their cheap oil.

    Iran had a democratically elected government in the early 1950s but it was not to the liking of the US and UK, both of whom wanted the oil cheap. The new government threatened to “nationalize” their own oil. That was not acceptable to the colonial powers. Hence, we had the death of the democratically elected leader at the hands of the Americans and British and the imposition of the Shah as a ruthless dictator. He would sell the oil cheap.

    The previously disunited Arabia was “united” under the ruthless Saud tribe.Reprssing all other tribes. Forcing them to submit to the most fundamentalistl type of Islam. Again, with the blessings of the west. Why? Cheap oil.

    The Assad family, in conjunction with the Baathist (yes, the Baathists were Saddam’s party) took control of Syria with a brutality similar to Saddam’s. They are part of the a religious minority representing less than 20% of the population,, so once again we see a strong man ruler who does not have the support of the people. The only way to maintain power is through brutality.

    So, it is not surprising that this region is a mess. For years the western powers simply used these areas as sources of cheap resources. Never helping build a democracy because democracy meant that the people of those regions would demand a fair price for those resources. It was easier to supply the dictators with the weapons and bribes in order to protect “US interests”. Those “US interests” are in all case oil companies.

    Of course, this is an oversimplified version of events, but the core is accurate. So, what should US policy be?

    Should we support those who rebel against dictators? Should we continue to do business with the dictators, thereby supporting their reigns of terror? Is it none of our business? Does the spread of authoritarian regimes threaten the US? Since we are by far the most militarized nation on Earth, do we have a responsibility to use that massive military force to suppress dictators like Assad?

    The problems of the Middle East are deep and widespread. They have been made worse by the involvement of the US, European nations and Russia.They have become a place where the major powers play games. There are no simple answers and no clear cut solutions. Anyone who thinks the US can unilaterally solve these issues is mistaken. Especially today, when the goal of the current administration seems to be parallel to the desires of Russia. Mainly, destroy the liberal democracies of the European Union and destroy the NATO alliance and minimize the role of the UN..

    We need a strong international response to Assad. The reason why the US succeeded in Afghanistan and the removal of Saddam from Kuwait was because we put together an international coalition. The reason we failed in Vietnam and Iraq invasion was because we had leaders who believed the US could go it alone.

    Whatever the US decides to do in Syria will require an international coalition to be successful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. whungerford says:

    “The reason why the US succeeded in Afghanistan and the removal of Saddam from Kuwait was because we put together an international coalition. The reason we failed in Vietnam and Iraq invasion was because we had leaders who believed the US could go it alone.”

    No, no, a thousand times no! The US succeeded in Afghanistan??? How? The removal of Saddam from Kuwait was a success??? How? We failed in Viet Nam because our cause was unjust. We failed in Iraq because we had no plan other than the removal of Saddam Hussein.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pystew says:

    When I went to Rep. Reed’s Listening Event in Geneva in 2013, he told us what he thought (aka talking points) as he entered the Fire House. He lead the discussion and the audience followed his lead.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. whungerford says:

    Rich, thanks for that article. Here’s another:

    Searching for keyword Syria on New NY 23rd produces a wealth of information from the past.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. josephurban says:

    whungerford…The response to 9/11 was the decimation of the Taliban and much of al-Qaeda. If you recall, the Taliban had imposed a strict Shari’s Law on the people of Afghanistan. The US (along with the international coalition) drove the Taliban from power. And destroyed Afghanistan as a launching pad for al-Qaeda. That part was success. It is true that Afghanistan is still in turmoil, but the most radical elements have been defeated.

    Yes, the US did drive Saddam out of Kuwait, under president GWH Bush (or Bush 1). It was a UN operation designed to keep Saddam from annexing Kuwait. It was very successful. It destroyed his military and destroyed his air force. That is why when Bush 2 went in, in 2003, there was little resistance from the Iraqi army…and no air force at all. It made the “invasion” a cakewalk”. Perhaps you are confusing the two separate military actions. I agree that the 2003 invasion has turned out to be the catalyst for the emergence of ISIS and the overall chaos that has ensued.

    I don’t think it matters (to victory) as to whether a cause is just or not. In Vietnam we had no support from anywhere else in the occupation, so Vietnam was not isolated by the international community. Was it a just cause? I don’t know. But it was stupid and arrogant.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. whungerford says:

    The most radical elements in Afghanistan have been defeated? Dream on.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. whungerford says:

    I joined a rather large protest in Rockford, Illinois against the First Gulf War. Our chant was “no blood for oil.” I thought we were right then, and I think we were right now.


  10. whungerford says:

    If we had made overturning the Assad government a priority in 2013 before focusing on ISIS, might Assad have been forced out and ISIS subsequently made to suffer an “enduring defeat” with the help of a new Syrian government and possibly Russia? Surely there would have been a cost to allowing ISIS to grow in strength as an ally against Assad, it would have been a dangerous gamble, who can say what the result might have been? In 2013, without support of Congress, that strategy was likely politically impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

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