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Another Week on a War that Wasn't: Syria Edition

Last fall, Eric C and I were so worried about a possible new war with Syria--specifically, an authorization of force vote by Congress--that we violated one of our core rules and “chased the news”. We posted a few articles opposing the war and analyzing the media coverage, and wrote an open letter to our representatives in Congress recommending that they didn’t start a new war in the Middle East.

And the U.S. didn’t go to war. Media coverage moved past Syria and on to better, newer, brighter news stories, like a Malaysian airplane crash, the government shutdown of 2013 (Glad we weren’t fighting a war during that!), Obamacare’s failure (then not failure), and another foreign policy crisis in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria continues on...and Syria has actually destroyed some of their chemical weapon stockpiles.


Syria, another war that wasn’t.

At the time, President Obama’s failure to intervene symbolized his lack of leadership, the ascendence of Russia, the failure of Americans to protect the innocent, and the decline of American power and global leadership...all in one small crisis. If you had turned on Fox News, CNN or even The Daily Show, you would have seen coverage bemoaning President Obama deciding not to start another war. You would have heard countless pundits warning that America’s security had never been more at risk than the present.

Does any of that seem weird, in hindsight? I mean, eight months on and Syria hasn’t made the news for weeks. (Unless you watch PBS or read The Economist cover to cover.) At the time--and for the record, the conflict in Syria hasn’t stopped--Syria seemed like the most important news story ever. I mean, thousands died in a chemical gas attack.

Americans have a billionaire racist to obsess over now.

There is an important takeaway in this episode: The media hyper-charges foreign policy crises with its 24/7 coverage. In the weeks during a crisis, the U.S. over-analyzes and tears apart the President’s every decision. In hindsight, it’s hard to remember why every crisis seemed so dire.

This wasn’t the first time--or second time--we got duped into opposing a war that never happened. Two years ago, we wrote a whole series on war with Iran--we’re still proud of that work, by the way--that never happened. Last year, we wrote a series on “The War that Wasn’t”, about North Korea and that war that never happened. At various points this year and last, war with Iran seemed inevitable, and now we have talk of intervening in the Ukraine. (Maybe Nigeria?) But all of these “wars” eventually fall by the wayside.

This week and next we plan to run some posts we wrote last year related to Syria. With the Ukraine figuratively “blowing up” in the mean time, we plan to lump in the whole host of avoided wars during the Obama presidency into one chunk. In hindsight, we hope to offer what most of the media fails to in a bid to grab page counts: thoughtful, reflective analysis on a series of crises.

five comments

There is a fuck-ton amount of angry, sexually repressed Sunni Islamists in the world. So I expect this already prolonged Syrian conflict to continue for many years. Consider the incessant sectarian violence in Iraq once Saddam’s government was disrupted. Even now, with more serious backing from the US and other countries, Iraq is haunted by persistent terrorism. Windows of opportunity have been opened in Syria. As long as these terrorist belligerents sustain their displaced aggression in Syria and inadvertently inhibit their own return home, the security of Western nations seems very promising.

Eric and Michael, I read all your articles and agree with most of your opinions. The Syrian Civil War is the exception, in part because of my relationship with the Syrian opposition. If you are writing how deciding against humanitarian intervention affected the United States of America, may I write a guest post about how that decision affected the Syrian opposition? Your statement about the chemical weaponry interests me in particular.

@5150 – I’ve never really understood the supposed relationship between sexual repression and large-scale violence. Could you please elaborate on the point? Also, you specifically mention sexually repressed males. Are there any known links between sexually repressed females and violence? Are there differences in the degree of violence between societies that just repress males, just repress females, and those that give free license to both? Is violence and repression a matter of correlation or causation?



It would be my pleasure.

The human male psyche has a tendency to deviate from normal behavior and develop into malformed, enraged perversions of desire when expression of sexuality is foiled. Sadly, this “distorted” rage resulting directly from sexual repression seldom takes the form of rebellion against the individuals (imams, clerics, Arabic oil entrepreneurs) and institutions (mosques, madrassas) behind the repression. And what we see most is, the rage is generally directed at helpless victims. It’s a reciprocal concept: adherents participating in a culture of Islamic sexual repression and frustration possess solely a foundation for gratification in the act of humiliating the foreign “enemy”, whose masculinity must be violated at all costs – as theirs once was.

German researcher publicist Peter Scholl-Latour, whom holds a master’s degree in Arab and Islamic Studies from Beirut, also affirms that sexual frustration and repression is ultra prevalent in Middle Eastern regions which incorporate conservative Islam principals. Why is that? From birth, these men and women are vehemently taught by religion to oppose the opposite gender and pleasure prior to marriage. Women are segregated and hidden from plain view by veils and separated in residential rooms. We can see where this discussion is going when you combine the relative facts of low socioeconomic status, no employment opportunities, no access to females. All the bottled-up biological hormones with no legitimate outlet.

I would like to briefly exemplify the factual link between sexual repression and female violence. Sexual assault and battery committed by both heterosexual and homosexual females against male victims is rapidly increasing in law enforcement domestic violence data. Information stemming from self-report data and detention facility intake research suggest evidence of sexual repression and frustration among female offenders. One example would be a virgin female taking advantage of an intoxicated male. A previously unattainable goal of pleasure repressed by familial objections toward gender fraternization.

@ obama

Hmm. There’s a difference between violence at the individual level (such as sexual assault to include gang rape) and state-wide insurrection. Given the statistically large imbalance of male-female ratios in China and India, there should presumably be a large number of sexually frustrated males (due to lack of opportunity as opposed to cultural restrictions, though there are some of those in parts of both countries too). Why, then, aren’t we seeing the same kind of insurrection in those countries as in Syria if sexual frustration is the trigger? For that matter, why wasn’t there insurrection in Syria ten years ago, given that social mores haven’t really changed there in the intervening time? What about other religious and social groups with strict customs concerning chastity? They aren’t descending into anarchy.

5150’s argument was that the civil war in Syria will continue because males there are sexually repressed. I think that sexual repression has no bearing on the civil war. There may be a parallel increase in sexual crimes as some people take advantage of the breakdown in law and order, but that’s distinct from this being a factor in causes of the start or perpetuation of civil war. If sexual repression really was a catalyst for revolutionary warfare then we should be seeing similar events occuring in China, India, any country that practices female genital mutilation, in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and in any Christian community that preaches against pre-martial sex. We aren’t. Therefore, I don’t see any causal relationship.