Lindsay Newland Bowker

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What are the limits of sovereignty? Are we clear on international norms?

Present debate on what to do about Syrias use of chemical weapons on rebels/government opponents takes us back to the broader issue of the limits of sovereignty. It seems apparent that we don't have shared global values on a country's interior use of chemical weapons or what to do about it even though this ostensibly has been a matter of global consensus since the end of World War II. .What action is justified and is it ok for anyone nation to act alone without a global consensus on the basis of "protecting its national interests"?

(I will add links to several TED convesrations we have had in the past on global values and global governance)

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    Sep 8 2013: If the US is to intervene in Syria without the UN, it should be understood that the US doesn't have the moral or legal high ground, and that fact should raise eyebrows as to the US administration's ulterior motives.

    First we should observe that Syria has not signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention. Thus the US administration uses the phrase "international norms". They haven't broken international laws, but at most a set of ethical standards that other countries have agreed to. The legal case isn't there. Onto the moral case.

    The US and NATO used white phosphorous and cluster munitions in Iraq and Libya. White phosphorous is not illegal under the CWC, but there has been much debate as to whether it should be. A treaty banning cluster bombs has been signed by 112 UN member states, excluding the US. The US administration recently signed a deal to sell 1,300 cluster bombs to the Saudis, their closest ally in the region. Aside from this illustrating the US administration's lack of concern for the proliferation of controversial weapons that violate "international norms", it highlights another interesting observation - the US has always backed Sunnis against Shi'ites.

    It's interesting to see the US administration stand untried for force-feeding POWs and giving them away to other countries (always under the condition that they're imprisoned or at least completely monitored for the rest of their lives), as they claim the role of a benign world protector and bomb civilians in countries they're not at war with. The US administration had their eyes set on aiding the Syrian rebels long before the sarin strike in Damascus. How can we not draw parallels between this conflict and the Soviet War in Afghanistan? The US administration will discard the Sunni rebels after they use them, and then point to their radicalism to advocate perpetual war.
    • Sep 8 2013: As I've said before, international law is completely irrelevant. There is no effective enforcement, which makes it nothing more than words on paper unless someone powerful decides to use it as an excuse to do something they'd do anyway (and its always an excuse, never a cause).

      There is a case to be made for the morality of it, even if it does seem hypocritical. Might makes right in this world, unfortunately. Cest la vie.
      By the way, all the talk of banning white phosphorous and cluster munitions is only signed by weak nations with little influence on the world stage. All the powerful countries don't sign it because they don't like hamstringing themselves (chemical weapons are seen as too unreliable to use even if they were legal). There is a similar attempt at banning automatic repeating firearms--I don't think as many as 50 countries signed it.

      I'll be a fair bit more cynical though, and advocate that its simply within the US' own interests to make the attack. I've already said all this bellow in one post or another, so I'll be brief:
      --It'll strengthen US influence in the region, which has been gradually diminishing ever since they got bogged down in Iraq. Influence is a zero sum game, which means influence from China, Iran and Russia is increasing the longer the US doesn't act.
      --It'll show Iran and all its proxies that the US not only barks, but bites as well (the hesitation isn't helping on that score, by the way).
      --Properly done, it can lead to stabilizing the region, at least in the long term (this would also involve backing a moderate militia once Assad falls).
      --It'll show the US' allies in the region, especially bordering Syria, that the US does more than talk. This is especially crucial so that Israel doesn't involve itself in an all out regional war with Iran over the nuclear program, which is bad for US interests.
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        Sep 8 2013: I see the web of political interests and shows of power. But look at every other Islamic civil war and regime change the US has been involved with. In Afghanistan, the CIA aided the mujahideen against the Soviet-backed regime, only to make way for the Taliban when that fell. The Taliban proved much easier to remove, but now the US risks unleashing a power vacuum if it withdraws its forces. Whether the US simply provides air support (Libya), or a full blown occupation (Iraq), the same problems emerge. It wastes lives and billions of dollars, and the rebels emerging victorious want Sharia law. Hold an election in the Middle East and the popular support goes to the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe this plays well into the plans of the US administration (we see this going back to the US overthrow of the Iranian democracy), but it's not in the interest of the American people.

        The situation in Syria is horrible, but I don't see how sarin gas makes it that much worse. Rebel factions aren't leading the most noble resistence either - http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=2bf_1378143986. I have no love for Assad, but I don't believe helping to remove him would necessarily lead to a beautiful new future for Syria.
        • Sep 9 2013: I suppose that's another way of looking at it.
          Let the Jihadists bleed themselves dry in Syria while you pass the popcorn. The local countries bordering with Syria don't particularly like this approach, because its too close to safely watch, but it could work for the US, despite the huge humanitarian cost.
          If you're actually looking to end the war, Assad needs to go. The militias then fight it out, but like curing cancer with chemo therapy, its bound to get worse before it gets better.

          Now that Obama has foolishly committed himself though... He's already lost a lot of face in the region and world at large, and he'll loose even more if he backs out.
          A bombing campaign that wouldn't weaken Assad enough to allow the rebels to topple him is always on the table I suppose, which allows him to minimize loss of influence without overly committing.

          My primary concern as is that if Obama is having such a hard time mustering up a minimalistic bombing campaign in Syria, he'll just sit on this hands in front of Iran.
          Which means they either go nuclear, or Israel bombs their nuclear program and gets involved in an all out war with Iran and all its proxies, with minimal US support. Living in Israel, I'm not particularly fond of either scenario.
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        Sep 9 2013: Obama is arguing for a "limited strike". Which is foolish, because his Secretary of State has been arguing for a regime change. Either side of him is arguing for no action or a regime change. He probably thinks a slap on the wrist is a nice comprimise, or it's his way of getting his fleeing fan base on board.

        The US has been pretty vigilant in the Middle East over the Obama years. I'm sure the CIA knows exactly when and if Iran will get a nuclear weapon, and Obama will let them do whatever they want. Republican warhawks would step out of the woodwork for that invasion. That's not to say Obama will have anything to do with it. I doubt he had much to do with the killing of bin Laden.

        I'm not passing the popcorn for Syria, but I'm not rooting for the rebels either. I would support humanitarian aid for refugees, or a UN intervention. The US has shown that nation building isn't its forte.
        • Sep 10 2013: A UN intervention essentially means a team consisting of whichever country cares to help out. At the moment, that's US, France, Turkey, and maybe a few smaller powers. Not that different than the coalition we have right now, except for the UN's worthless stamp of approval.
          Not that it'll ever happen. The Russians and Chinese will see to it.

          Humanitarian aid for refugees would be welcome, but unfortunately costs money. Someone would have to foot the bill, and apparently no one wants to...

          By the way, with operations like the Bin Laden assassination, the political leadership almost never has anything to do with it. All they do is authorize (or not authorize) the military or intelligence service's existing plan; then, they watch on their big screen TVs (popcorn optional). You can't expect a president or prime minister to micro manage an intel officer, after all.
          A massive operation like bombing Iran's nuclear program on the other hand, that initiative does need to come from up to. The specifics are up to the military, but the order comes from the political side of things. And Obama has been disturbingly passive about the whole affair...
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        Sep 10 2013: I was more trying to make the point that action against Iran would happen regardless of who was president (i.e. a weak Obama) because Iran is a big point of concern for both parties in the US. Though I think Americans are becoming increasingly weary of the US's foreign policy incentives. The rhetoric that Bush used to fire up the Republicans ("They hate us for our freedom. They're harboring terrorists") likely wouldn't be taken seriously today for the invasion of a Middle Eastern country. Iran on the otherhand has been a big subject of debate in US elections, with both sides favoring action in response to a real threat. Considering intelligence agency operations such as Stuxnet, I doubt any real threat in Iran would be safe from a US response, even if Congress were for some reason against it.

        An official UN intervention would shift the responsibility to the UN. Sure it's practicly the same countries baring the financial burden, but it wouldn't be the US's problem like Iraq and Afghanistan. And it involves Russia, which has proven to be an incredible obstacle to intervention, but it would guarantee that the solution wouldn't play into the geopolitical interests of a single country. This might not float well with Americans or Israelis, but if the issue is chemical weapons, it makes sense. If not, let's just be real and say we're looking to shift the balance of power against Iran and Russia.

        Though it looks like Obama saw the writing on the wall, and is considering Putin's diplomatic solution. Is this the right thing to do, sieze the weapons and call it a day, or would this wrongly legitimize Assad's presidency?
        • Sep 10 2013: Putins proposed solution essentially allows Assad to hand over the chemical weapons with one hand, without even pausing the killing with the other.

          Its like the police tracking down a killer, explaining to him that the hollow point bullets he's been using are illegal, and take them away. The killer promptly thanks the police for showing him the error of his ways, loads up a clip of full metal jacket ammo into his gun, and keeps right on shooting.

          Chemical weapons aren't in the same class as biological and nuclear, even if the law says otherwise; they're frankly not a whole lot more damaging than conventional munitions. The method of the slaughter shouldn't be the focus it, it should be the fact that there was a slaughter to begin with.

          It would also make Obama loose serious face as opposed to an attack. Of course, if he's counted his votes in congress and realized he's short, this may be his way of loosing minimal face.
          Going to congress in of itself was idiotic. A declaration of war requires the element of surprise and a measure of swiftness and decisiveness to maximize success, and any form of parliament is inherently none of those things. This isn't about democracy or any form of checks and balances; from a purely pragmatic standpoint, use of force needs to be the domain of the executive body, and no one else.
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        Sep 10 2013: Many Americans would raise incredible issue with the president not seeking a declaration of war from Congress. Even Bush went to Congress for Iraq. After the numerous scandals that have plagued Obama's administration (Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, the NSA revelations) an executive decision to invade against the will of the public would certainly have House Republicans beginning the impeachment process. That might be a laughing point for Eric Li, but many Americans see executive orders as being in the realm of dictators.

        Is it really about ending the killing, or the opportunity to ouste Assad? If it were a genocide, I would see it as more of a humanitarian crisis, but it's a civil war. Should the US step in where ever jihad points its finger? Is it really about ending the violence, or playing chess pieces against Iran and Hezbollah?

        I don't mind discussing the possible advantages of pushing back against Shia Islam, but if that's the elephant in the room then we should call it what it is.
        • Sep 11 2013: Its probably easier for me to understand the need for executive orders for matters involving application of force. My country is much more intimately familiar with that sort of thing--we just see it as a day to day necessity.
          I can understand how Americans who hadn't had a close brush with war (as in, on their own home territory) since the civil war 150 years ago might have forgotten that these sorts of measures need to be the domain of the executive branch, and the executive branch alone.

          I also don't have any issue with Shia Islam in general. My problem is with Iran's ruling body, its proxies, Assad and Hezbollah, and most importantly the nuclear program.
          Pushing back against them should be a priority for the US, and quite a number of other countries. In Israel, hardly anyone is in need of convincing; being on the same side of the Atlantic as potential Iranian nukes is enough.
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        Sep 11 2013: It really goes back to the founding of the country (which is almost legendary here)- the founding fathers believed the executive branch was most prone to war, and therefor felt the need to delegate the power to declare war soley to Congress. They were largely against engaging in foreign wars altogether. To quote George Washington:

        "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."

        Sure the United States is a global hegemon today, but the founding fathers haven't been forgotten. So there is a big distinction between the dream America that's faded into ideals and the world power the United States has become, and some strong desires among the people to reconcile the two. We see this with the rise of the anti-American hero, that loves his country but hates his government (Edward Snowden is an example). The AUMF that allows the President to use war powers to pursue Al Qaeda and associates has largely been seen as a sacreligious attack on American idealism (though neocons would bark at this), a perversion of the definition of war giving unholy powers to the executive branch. That's why you see so much repulsion in America towards Obama's belief that he has the power to attack Syria without a vote from Congress. While executive power to declare war makes more sense in Israel, for a global hegemon it's the path to another Rome.
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      Sep 8 2013: Hi Fred,

      Nice to meet you and thanks for joining this discussion. The points you make are not lost on me . The U,S. is playing fast and loose with facts on this I'd say and I hope all nations constrain my own from pursuing the line they are on.

      Syria like Afghanistan and other "nations" that aren't really nations in the sense of shred history and culture are essentially failed states. There is nothing emergent that offer any hope out of the chaos of often cruel rebel factions and a "nothing to lose" President Assad. We don't have the right international institutions in place to help countries like Syria achieve a more normal and workable future for themselves and nothing the U.S. is about now has anything to do with that..
    • Sep 12 2013: Fred, 3 days ago: Your wrote in part.
      "If the US is to intervene in Syria without the UN, it should be understood that
      the US doesn't have the moral or legal high ground, and that fact should raise
      eyebrows as to the US administration's ulterior motives."
      ===
      I agree -- Fred, would you mind if I changed the word "intervene" to the word
      "armed aggression"?

      Defending ourselves from attack is fine, but when we are not attacked, and we
      strike, then we become the "armed aggressor". I believe to "intervene" is a
      word better reserved for the diplomatic corps.
      ===
      Another item. There has been much gossip about the United States Government
      aiding and abetting Syrian rebels for the length of the Civil WAR, by providing
      Weapons, Ammo, and Training. If any of this is true, then isn't Obama just trying
      to win the Civil WAR for the rebels. And are not we America's the laughing stock
      of the World?
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        Sep 12 2013: That is absolutely true. We've aided radical Sunni rebels for decades. That's the most interesting part of the whole post-911 saga. Both Al Qaeda and the Taliban received persistent US aid during the Soviet War in Afghanistan. To this day, despite the supposed "War on Terror", Sunni rebels are our proxy army.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_Afghanistan

        When Saddam was gassing Iran, the US was giving him the targets.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_support_for_Iraq_during_the_Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_war
        • Sep 12 2013: Fred,
          You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD AWARD.

          We live in a crazy world. Politicians think they can and do
          change sides at will. They do not bother to tell the people who
          voted for them, their reasons for doing so.

          We are supposed to forgive them, when we finally find out
          the truth. I would rather Tar and Feather them all.

          If you read between the lines of the movie, "Charlie Wilson's War",
          our government is transparent. ..Only not what you would want to see.

          It was a great movie. ..A Historical masterpiece of "almost" fiction.
  • Sep 6 2013: Linda,
    Glad to met you too, I believe it all start with a knowing and grows with the evolution of consciousness, by doing what you are doing you are definitely helping to bring light to matters otherwise ignored by the majority of us.
    The battles of the future will be fought in new grounds, and in these electronics spaces is where the key for the liberation lies, because is here where we can all connect and be one, and make the puppeteers understand that they power is ever so slightly escaping from their grip. Going back to the basics lets our voices to be heard loud and clear, we demand peace, we no longer want our or their children's blood be shed for the sake of the international corporations and their greed. in peace.
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      Sep 6 2013: Eloquent and beautiful Cecilia. I will hold that image with you and walk towards it with you. And soon we will notice it is millions of us walking in the same direction.
  • Sep 10 2013: I don’t think sovereignty is an issue if a country is in a serious failed state. Early intervention like sanctions does not involve sovereignty and I believe very seriously failed states must loose there right of sovereignty. In a ranking system loss of sovereignty would be attached to set of rankings automatically (genocide for example would trigger the loss of sovereignty)

    In criminal law your property rights do not protect you from the police and I think the same applies to seriously failed states.
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      Sep 10 2013: well said

      I am in complete agreement.

      How does Syrias ranking as #13 among the worlds "failed nations" affect intervention there now ahead of the 12 other more seriously failed nations?

      Are All nations on the ranking of "failed nations" then on notice that they no longer have any sovereignty?
    • Sep 12 2013: I oppose sanctions by one economic state over another.
      The result is a pressure upon the citizens, and not their
      leadership.

      The cutting off the head however is a better solution.
      But the flaw is of course retaliation, as we have seen
      George W. Bush perform for the failed assassination
      attempt of GHW Bush, made by Saddam Hussein.
      Only gossip of course. But then, what isn't?

      We the people living on this planet are too wrapped up
      in ownership, sovereignty, and geographical governments.
      Nomadic life has lost it's appeal, and most of it's populations.

      Thinking, acting, opposing, are all attributes of citizens that
      have no impact upon geographical governments, who merely
      ignore them until they become too boisterous.

      Shadow governments will prevail over the next couple hundred
      years as communications survived surveillances and babel is
      lost to understanding. A slow process that might be stopped
      by mother nature, if the co2 scientists are right. If they are, then
      it's back to the caves and drawing board. reboot.
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    Sep 8 2013: USA is a complicated nation,who acts viewing itself as the police of this planet. What's inside its charitable outward intention, is it seeks to retain its position as the sole superpower. However, American troops sometimes do help people of other nation out,they should be thankful to us. But, when we consider the whole issue,think about the trials we've overcome,the destruction we've gone through,whether intervening other country's conflict is worthwhile. Look at the enemies we've made in the mideast, I wonder what it would like if we didn't engage in any war which did not directly concerned us,why should we put us on fire for the sake of other nations.
    • Sep 8 2013: Except that now the middle east is actually asking for an intervention.

      Its not a matter of there being a 100% accurate doctrine to apply to every intervention. Its neither universally a bad idea, nor globally correct.
      Like all things in life, its about knowing to pick your battles.

      The invasion of Iraq in2003 was poorly thought out. The recent intervention in Libya on the other hand, went spectacularly well.
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        Sep 10 2013: Who tells you middle east is asking for an intervention?

        I dont think the intervention in Libya has anything to do with spectacularity,did you forget Christ Stephens was killed in Libya unprovokedly?
        • Sep 10 2013: A single death, tragic as it may be, is nothing in a war. More than a hundred thousand people have already been killed in Syria, and that figure is already several months old.
          A single death is a tragedy, a million a statistic...

          The intervention in Libya made the oil flow again, and cut the war short by months or maybe even years, saving countless lives, all with very minimal Western losses. I'd call that spectacularly well, by the brutal standards of war.

          And the middle east most definitely is asking for an intervention. The Arab league has already authorized it pretty much unanimously, Israel has been pushing for it diplomatically, and Turkey straight up offered to join in on the attack.
          Iran is the only country in the region with objections... And Assad himself if you're willing to count him I suppose.
        • Sep 12 2013: George, your right, no one asked us to be there.

          A bit on the bloodthirsty side. WW2 60 million dead,
          and an uncounted peoples maimed and raped.
          Our next big one could be 600 million and that's
          just a small estimate. Big Bombs big Killings.

          Something our President forgets. Youths.
          Youths are the fodder of WAR.
          Youths will seek revenge.
          More Killing more Revenge Seeking Youths.

          A resolution --
          There would be less WAR if the requirement was
          that the Leader of any nation so inclined to make
          war, was to first have to commit suicide. And the
          Leader of the losers, would have to commit suicide
          upon surrender.

          Do I have a second on the resolution?
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    Sep 6 2013: Thanks for the nice welcome Lindsay,

    I think what I was trying to say in my pretty opaque and facetious way is that perhaps the fulcrum of change for a heterogeneous humanity is no longer within the nation state paradigm. We therefore must and can find other "solid places" upon which we can leverage the "change we want to see in the world".

    My view stems from the following observations:

    1. "We the People" implies a small world where we expect our "neighbour" to share a less than dynamic/context sensitive world view of Good and Evil, the value of life, what we want from it and how we want to live it. A homogenous view of humanity if you will.

    2. Nation States are still stuck in slightly more subtle world view which accepts the globe as populated by heterogeneous nations, but with each in turn populated by a homogenous citizenry all sharing the same set of core values.

    3. Global institutions are simply clusters of Nation States, perpetuating and compounding the fundamental issue.

    In my opinion none of this is true anymore, if it ever was.

    Luckily (in my opinion) there are now different modalities by which groups of people may emerge, come to a consensus and act in a relatively short time. The key characteristics here are emergent and dynamic.

    Innovative use of crowd sourcing, social media and new technologies could allow consensus to emerge across geopolitical borders, time zones, religious and cultural divides. Giving a voice to huge emergent groups of individuals who share a perspective on a single issue, while not worrying about developing a nebulous idea of what "humanity" believes. This could initially be a powerful lobbying tool, but later help to build a new force for real action in the world.

    Mark Zuckerberg wasn't invited to the G8 because Ms Merkel thought he presented a nicer view than David Cameron across the table. My feeling is we could start using that influence right now in some way. Maybe someone cleverer than me can think of a way!
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    Sep 6 2013: Over the past few years I've been wondering if we are now moving into a new paradigm in which ideas of sovereignty and nation, particularly when predicated on parameters of geography, have become untenable. It's probable that this is no grand revelation to the rest of you, but it takes a while for these things to dawn on me.

    We live in an era in which very moderate wealth (in 1st world terms) is, for many purposes, a very practicable means of circumventing national border, tax, and even criminal responsibility.

    Facebook, population 700 (ish) million citizens and an apparently permanent seat at the G8 (soon to be G9?), would seem to be in prime position to lobby for nationhood/sovereignty. Why would we say no to that?

    In this context, in what terms do we recognise the nationality of an individual, which entity has greatest claim to sovereignty? If I earn my income from an online enterprise with a customer base in CountryA, I pay taxes (or not) in CountryB and CountryC, I'm married to a woman from CountryD, I was born in CountryG and live (for now) in CountryH; well you get the picture....

    If I kill you and steal your stuff in World of Warcraft, I get a badge; if I do the same in London I go to jail for a very long time, if I do the same in Texas I'm executed by the State some decade and a half later.

    When I killed you in WoW I looked you in the eye I as plunged my dagger into your heart, while for both London and Texas crimes I actually shot you from a remote control drone (Oh yes, I went there!), which I controlled via several internet hosts and a geosynchronous satellite from my bedroom in Quebec.

    Maybe then, in this strange new world, we can at least be sure of a shared humanity. Trouble is that a shared understanding of what constitutes "humanity" is not guaranteed.

    Ultimately my “humanity” tells me that an entity abdicates claims to sovereignty the moment it intentionally drops bombs on its own children. At that point, my "humanity" requires me to act.
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      Sep 6 2013: Stephen,

      First, nice to meet you and may thanks for stopping by this conversation to collaboratively peer under the covers of the present Syria debate.

      We are all converging I think in the same place which is that the institutions we have in place globally and nationally on justified interventions in a govern nation serve very different interests and values that "we the people" hold globally We the people want institutions and remedies that serve life dignity and earth.

      Our elected reps inherit laws and international treaties and guidance on when we can intervene in another nation that are out of synch with our values, and hopefully at least some of theirs.

      Clearly we cannot change those institutions in time to effect an institutional/legal course correction in Syria ( the allowed military intervention is is if you have and use chemical weapons we will and can invade)I

      So the question becomes nation by nation can we make our own legislative bodies nation by nation vote our way on Syria and can we begin to evolve national policies more inline with our values
  • Sep 6 2013: Would the US intervene in Syria if this country were in Africa or South America? perhaps but more likely they'll use other methods of persuasion, we are asking the wrong question here and might never agree in the definition or the limits of sovereignty. Let's talk human lives, in both sides of the conflict. Let's for a minute get over the wrong concept that the societies of the first world are more "civilized" because we are not in any way shape or form, to live in close contact with nature does not makes a human been a savage or a society lesser deserving of having the same rights as the first world nations. Webster definition of savage" lacking the restrains normal to civilized human beings". How is that with all the technologies and advancements we have only become more sophisticated predators of the planet and our fellow human beings.
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      Sep 6 2013: Ceciia,

      First Glad to meet you and thank you for stopping by to collaboratively discern what is underneath the current global debate on Syria.

      Where we seem to have come is very close to what you are saying. We have basically collaboratively come to the fact that the underbelly to Syria is that our global institutions and the remedies they offer really are about controlling nay build up of military power by other nations, especially those with a leadership that is closer to our enemies than to us as is the case with Syria.

      These institutions and the governments that control their actions know that "we the people" would never authorize any kind of military intervention on the basis of why they actually want to intervene so they "sell" us the intervention on values and principles that "we the people" widely hold.

      So the question we have come to is in the case of Syria can we the people rising up nation by nation to voice something closer to what you have posted can prevent the remedies authorized for intervention from being applied n this case.

      It is absurd and inconsistent ,as you say in your post, to talk "humanitarian" when we don't in fact intervene militarily or otherwise if the government in charge is doing what we ask them to do on and strategic interests, especially access to that country's natural resources by U.S. and EU corporations.

      How many inncocent women and children did the US kill with its drone strikes in Libya on questionable "verified enemy targets". No one talked sanctions against us. Is a known and predictable unavoidable tally of civilian deaths by use of drones not very bit as much an offense against humanity as what is being alleged in Syria?

      So Cecilia, yes, lets talk human lives on both sides of the conflict. What would you call for actions that protect and serve life and are there institutional remedies that allow or provide for that? How do we make the institutions we have ( our own national governments honor that?
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    Lejan .

    • +1
    Sep 6 2013: Which 'national interests' are to be 'protected' in the USA if Syria uses chemical weapons within an internal conflict within its own borders? I think many nations will have a very close look on those arguments in case of an US military intervention in Syria.

    What also will become difficult, at least on international level, is the line of argument to prove that Syria did use chemical weapons, especially against the background of the former 'proof' for weapons of mass destruction of Saddam Hussein... sort of the 'cry wolf' syndrome.

    The humanitarian argumentation is difficult for the US too. First because the US possesses weapons of mass destructions too and didn't sign the nuclear convention, and second, because there have been many civil wars and even whole genocides since WW2 which didn't trigger any 'humanitarian response'. At plain body count it doesn't make any difference if 200 people died of conventional weapons or due to chemical weapons. And here the USA is not alone, as most other western nations, mine included, didn't help people in need where they could have. Rwanda may be named as one example here.

    So given the lack of comprehensible arguments, an US military intervention in Syria may not serve any global consensus at all, especially as the people of Great Britain, one of the most reliable allies of the US, decided against an involvement in this matter.

    By the instable and risky political situation in this part of the world, I can only hope, that the US and the UN is seeking for alternative solutions but war to help the people in Syria who are suffering a horrible faith.

    I highly agree with you that this world needs a global consensus on war, but in general and not only on certain types of weaponry. We need this consensus to be based on humanitarian principles exclusively, without any particular geopolitical or resource based interest of any intervening and helping country.
    We need to cut military spending worldwide and we need it now!
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      Sep 6 2013: Lejan,

      Wonderfully and wisely said. Couldn't agree more. Thank you.
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        Sep 6 2013: "We need to cut military spending worldwide and we need it now"

        While I do not outwardly or inwardly approve of war and feel violence is a final solution not a first one, I disagree with the statement I quoted.

        If we suddenly drop our guns and chant peace peace holding hands and blowing kisses.. I don't think the rest of the world is going to say "well duh why didn't we think of that!" and join in.

        No sir.

        I think the violent bloodthirsty cultures of the world are going to see a lamb among wolves and lick their chops eager to be the first ones to have dinner

        I believe it was George Orwell who said "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

        I feel that we can lay down arms without fear, when we turn them, into us. Because as long as there is a them and us, there will be competition for who will rule. At the end of the day I feel it is better to rule, than be ruled, unless of course that ruler is God, in which case we would all be wise to bend a knee.
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          Sep 6 2013: I don't think any of us speaking here together are flower chidren of the 60's putting daisies in the barrel of rifles. I think what I hear peope saying here is we will not simply rubber stamp th eold paradigm and we will draw the line right here that the U.S. may not usemilitary force, boots or no boots to address what it sees as a crisis n Syria )( or is telling us is a crisis in Syria.

          No question we have serious problems in Syria. No question U.S. interests are compromised. Economic interests are compromised. So let's talk about that with transparency and honesty
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    Lejan .

    • +1
    Sep 6 2013: By its intrinsic nature the concept of sovereignty can not be limited. A state either is sovereign, or it is not and the only valid instance to decide this is any state by itself.

    On the geopolitical stage this fundamental rule may not be favored by any nation, but this is the way it is.

    In terms of 'shared global values', the current situation in Syria is actually pretty clear, as Syria neither signed nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and therefore and as a sovereign state does not violate any international agreements on this. The 'global consensus' since World War II, which you mentioned, only applies to the signing states of this Convention which legally binds only them.

    Chemical as well as biological and nuclear are weapons of mass destructions and for all three types exists international conventions. The US, for instance, and as a sovereign state signed for chemical and biological, but didn't sign for nuclear weapons. This is how the US positioned itself on this matter and it is either accepted or disapproved by other nations, but thats all other nations can do about it.

    The US didn't sign the conventions for Cluster Munitions and Antipersonnel Mines as well.

    The legal scope of those international norms and conventions only apply to the signing states and therefore does not affect the non signing states, which in case of Syria, does not legitimate any legal actions.

    Therefore it becomes argumentative difficult for the US to legitimize any military intervention, because Syria does not violate a convention it didn't sign.

    The debate about 'protecting national interests' in the given context is bizarre, as it conflicts not only with the Syrian sovereignty but also with the concept of an 'global consensus', as national interests are its opposite.
    • Sep 6 2013: While I understand what you are saying, and agree with most of it, the U.S. can defend any attack on the grounds that we have troops, citizens, and allies close enough for those chemical weapons to be used on them.That being the case, the U.S. does not need to use legal arguments against the Syrian state, but can use the fact that they are a threat to U.S. interests, safety, and soverignty. As a U.S. citizen, and former army NCO, I truly wish we wouldn't stick our noses in to other countries problems, but, we tried that in world war two, and eventually we got drug into it. We can no longer sit on the wayside and allow dictators to have this kind of control.
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        Sep 7 2013: Yet still there is a difference of being 'close' to chemical weapons to be 'used on them' and to finally being 'used on them'.

        I noticed a general shift in perception in recent years that 'preventive military interventions' are not considered anymore to be nothing but the actual aggression of a war.

        There is no 'first strike' out of defense reasons just by plain logic! Because the one who strikes first turns its opponent, even the most but just potential aggressor, into defense while taking away any alternative outcome of the former situation. Therefore it can not be a valid argument in saying to have prevented aggressive actions while anticipating them.

        So as long Syria didn't actually use any chemical weapons on US troops, citizens or close allies, there is no legitimation in any military intervention within any other sovereign country whatsoever.

        Because if you would follow this logic, there was no excuse why the US didn't already attack China for its potential thread in possessing nuclear weapons of mass destruction, or Russia and others. And any other nation could legitimize to attack the US for the nuclear weapons it posses itself.

        On this we like to stress the argument, that there is a difference in being an 'democratic' nation or an 'dictatorship', which, in itself, isn't logic as well, as it only claims for a difference it destroys itself the moment so called 'preventive' actions take place from the 'democratic' side.

        Those of us who happen to life in democratic societies may not like the concept of dictatorships, and so do I, but if we start to bomb any nation who didn't transform into democracy by now, we would nothing but devalue our system we wish other nations to transform into.

        Because of this I disagree with you saying, that the 'U.S. does not need to use legal arguments against the Syrian state'. Who if not democratic states do we democratic citizens expected to legitimize its military actions?
        • Sep 7 2013: History has proven that small dictatorships will use any weapons of mass destruction that they possess. I am not for waiting and reacting. That would be disasterous, and all the peacenicks would all of a sudden cry bloody murder for allowing that to happen.
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        Lejan .

        • +1
        Sep 7 2013: This is what makes us belief of being different from any dictatorship, to have not only some reasons or just 'gut feelings' to go for war, but to have legal arguments for it and true facts to make such decisions.

        But if we just do what we like and because of what we think what may happen just because 'we can', we won't do any better than any dictatorship gone wild.

        One of the highest achievement we are proud of, is the legal system in our democracies, to separate us from any arbitrariness of dictatorships. But this legal system doesn't end at our borders, as we are responsible of our actions on international levels as well. If law and order is what we stand for, we have to life up to it even in risky situations.

        I also think we shouldn't keep on practicing our double-standards with dictatorships in general, in which we tend to 'tolerate' them the moment they are profitable or useful to us, yet condemn or even bomb them the moment they turn their back on us.

        Same goes for China. We keep having this feeling of our moral superiority towards them, suppressing their people, yet if we talk business, who cares for those details? This our active international behavior is what we are measured against by other nations and political systems and not against our lip-service.

        And as long as we act differently of what we claim, we are not only loosing our credibility but being the cause that other nations may feel threatened by us, instead of being the reason to rethink their own system.

        I always wondered why the US operates approximately 1000 military bases worldwide of which many of them are located within areas of scarce resources, especially within the middle east. I don't know how you see it in the US, yet the latest military conflicts you had in those areas didn't improve the overall opinion other nations formed about your country and made people think about the true intentions of this involvement.

        In this light Syria just seems a threshold to Iranian resources ...
        • Sep 7 2013: We stood by and watched Britain almost bombed into the stone age, and did nothing. Same goes for China. It took us being attacked to get us to look at what happened. I am not saying I agree with reasons for attacking one dictatorship and not another, especially if monetary gain is afoot. But, the U.S. and it's allies have made it their business to step in and protect innocent civilians before, and I am sure will do it again. Again, I am not defending only going after regimes that we stand to lose resources, and not going after those that are considered allies, but we have become, like it or not, the worlds police. Most of these so called credibility losses actually started out asking for help, until they got into a position of power then they wanted us out so that they could oppress the people. Personally, I wish our congress would vote to stop giving aide to the world, but that isn't going to happen, because the corporations who are truly in charge won't allow it.
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          Sep 7 2013: Lehan & Timothy ,

          What you have each said is right at the heart of it and as Timothy invites us to dom we have to consider past applications of intervenetion, or non-intervention and the reasons for it.( My mother was a survivor of the London Blitz..when itwasn't clear the U/S. would help out so I grew up with stories of how war terrified inncocents. Ladies knitting in subway bomb shelters where they stayed for days some times couldn't undersrand why the rest of the world didn't care and wasn't helping)

          Western Nations, U.S. at the center ho have taken up the job of "world police" ( we'll talk to the U.N. but if you don't agree we'll do what we want to do any way) have to revisit what they are policing and what the aim of that policing are. More and more of "we the people" aren't happy with the old paradigm that still governs in situations like the present one with Syria.

          We can't just "oppose" and resist. We have to offer solutions through specific changes in law and policy in our own nations.
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        Sep 7 2013: I truly hope I am mistaken on this last 'interpretation'!!!
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        Sep 7 2013: History has also proven that any weapon of mass destruction was used by any political system.

        History has also proven that the German nation is violent to its core. We didn't only stop the violently expanding Roman empire in those days, we seem to like to expand our own territory from time to time. WWI, WWII and we do not even shied away on genocides. So if history is your teacher, and change no option, it would from a preventive standpoint make more sense to wipe us out, before we change back our minds. Given the fact, that we already regained the economical lead in Europe coming from ashes, our newest military restraints may just be part of a bigger plan ...

        I don't see Syria and Iran to have such a record ...

        It seems our points of view keep flipping on opposite sites, because the involvement of the USA during WWII and against my very country is to me the best military intervention your nation ever did. And it ended ever since in my eyes in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        If its just was 'your' and 'your' allies business to 'protect innocent civilians', I would not have written a single word here. But I can not remain silent, if humanitarian reasons are misused over and over again, because if that was what it is about, where have we been in Rwanda? What is the humanitarian difference to die of gas or by a bullet, shrapnel, blast-wave, land mine, etc, etc, etc ...

        Can mass destruction only be reduced to the number of strokes it takes? I don't think so!

        Humanity is no matter of the 'form on the day'. Yet if its practiced this way, it isn't honest. It is that simple and my nation not better than yours on this.

        A 'world police' without a binding adjudicative authority is de facto a police state, which is nothing but a relative to dictatorship.

        Democracy deserves better than that if this is what we stand for!
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    Sep 4 2013: I think that what is absolutely essential is multiple independent confirmations of the source of information with regard to this sort of event.

    Having some pictures presented to me on the news is not going to cut it, I'm afraid.

    Modern media is so easily constructed and manipulated that it behooves us all to look beyond mainstream media and government propaganda to search for the truth of the situation. Despite living in the so-called Information Age, this is much harder than people think.

    Killing people is not okay whether it is with chemical weapons or regular weapons; whether it is done out of indignation, some perceived sense of righting a wrong or just plain political control.

    Nothing is simple and black and white - this realisation is the true worth of social networking and alternative communication channels.
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      Sep 4 2013: Hey SCott...long time..so good to see you again and thanks for your comment.

      Yes that's it exactly. We let the nations that have decided for reasons we'll never really know, to be intervenors when they have been collaborators right up til then and the we rely on phony documentation by the nation that wants to intervene.

      Using might to force allowing a completely independent no political verification by trusted peace keepers who are experts as well should work..and shouldn't there be some sort of penalties for nations who cook stuff up to justify interventions they want to make for other reasons. Shouldn'tthe U.S. have sanctions for the fraudulent intervention in Iraq and if this one turns out to be fraudulent as a nobel prize winner who was just there says ( I will post her speech by edit).

      Is this a possible way to break the might makes right cycle and to force transparency??

      And to your last point..yes I agree there is a might arising from within "what is" and it is speaking all over the world. "we the people" are a might that sees things differently , has different principles and values from those who lead us in title as elected officials.. When the people awaken and speak the game changes.
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      Sep 4 2013: And here Scott is a perfect example of your point of how the internet has given us voice to make change..This post was in my in box right after I posted to you. 73% of move on members nationwide oppose the Presidents' plan to intercede militarily boots or no boots.

      "Dear MoveOn member,

      Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began debating whether to authorize the use of military force in Syria in response to reports of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.

      Because this is such a big decision, we asked every MoveOn member to weigh in on whether MoveOn should support or oppose the congressional authorization to use military force in Syria.

      The results are in, and they are unequivocal:

      73% said MoveOn should oppose the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.


      History has shown again and again that even a "limited" military engagement can quickly become a slippery slope to seemingly endless war. But stopping this war is within reach.





      Consistent polling shows that the majority of Americans are opposed to this military intervention, and more than 147 members of Congress are on record as firmly opposed to or leaning against it.2 But mainstream media outlets and many elected officials are trying hard to make us think that strikes are inevitable.3

      So we need to unleash the power of our more than 8 million member community right away to make it clear to Congress that we oppose military action in Syria. Congress will vote on the authorization to use military force as soon as next week, and members of Congress are making up their minds right now, so we need to act fact.


      Can you call your Senators and Representative right now and tell them to 'Vote No' on the use of military force in Syria? Here are the numbers to call:"

      Those voices and millions of others won't let the game continue to be might makes right.
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    Sep 4 2013: Lindsay...as Luigi said some years ago..."The institutional evil in democracy disguise".
    • thumb
      Sep 4 2013: yes we had the conversation too.here at TED "Is Democracy synonymous with capitalism?".
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    Sep 4 2013: Might makes right.

    Any country is as sovereign as its ability to enforce its will and no further.

    While we all "wish" that fairness or justice in our view makes right, this is not often the case.

    History has shown that if you have the power to do something and no one can thwart you, then you will get away with it.

    Our best hope is that what we consider to be right and true and just has the MIGHT and the will to hold that ground against all opposition.
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      Sep 4 2013: Hello Martin and nice to meet you. Thnak you for joining me in this conversation that I really want to work through to clarify my own thoughts.

      In the past here at TED when we have spoken about the limits of Sovereignty we have spoken most about acts or policies that cross borders and affect other nations..For example a nation that sends industrial pollution into the air affects the air quality of neighboring nations.

      This discussed intervention in Syria says there are certain "crimes against humanity" that are just tolerable and justify some sort of outside action when they occur.. No one is talking publicly about the fear that these weapons will be used by terrorists in other nations or against other nations, possibly Israel.

      Is a strictly internal government policy , whether by democracy or not, a country's own business? And if not , why not?
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        Sep 4 2013: Hi Lindsay,
        I really was answering that very question.

        All countries are officially sovereign and have the right to make whatever laws and rules they want.

        This is not really about sovereignty is it? It's about one country saying I don't care what you think that is NOT acceptable.

        The country would then ACT against it if they thought they had the MIGHT ... or they would disapprove and bide their time if they thought they did not have the MIGHT.

        When considering if they have the MIGHT, that's when it gets tricky, as might on both sides is measured in terms of military/political/economic/ allies .. and of course timing.

        A country can be as sovereign as it wants but as history shows if a country with more might says oh really? Then its all fun and games till someone loses an eye..
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          Sep 4 2013: Of course that is what is going on and that is how it works..doubt

          so I hear you & others here saying that the very idea of sovereignty is an illusion a myth because of the imbalance of power and control of world resources.

          A nation whether really some tattered remnant of some former nation or not has only the sovereignty it can attain through power..its own or that of its allies ( which in Syrias case are Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia all countries still producing sweet crude.

          So any voted or agreed by treaty consensus on what a country can ad cannot do within its own borders would only ever work the way it was supposed to when the asserting nations have power and the erring nation has none.

          That I get and agree with totally.

          What brought me here are questions about the nuances and complications of "shared global values" we think exists..like that chemical weapons should not exist. Period.
  • Sep 4 2013: The reaction to the use of chemical weapons by Syria clearly demonstrates the limits of national sovereignty.

    That limit is defined by the willingness of the international community to take real action. In practice, that boils down to decisions by a few heads of state to give the order to send the bombers.

    A thousand years from now, when the world is much more peaceful than now, historians will include these centuries in the age of violence. The age of the rule of law is still in the future.
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      Sep 4 2013: Hi Barry..thanks for joining and thanks for your thoughts. As I just wrote to Martin, this is an issue I am wrestling with myself and looking to get clearer on through exchange with fellow tedsters.

      I am not so much interested in what nations are actually doing and saying and whether it's right or wrong and until we, amongst ourselves here at TED, in this conversation, have a collaborative sense of when a nations internal affairs warrant external intervention.

      Then as a separate consideration we could collaborate on the process for deliberating and deciding appropriate intervention.

      What in your opinion that is strictly internal to a nation, has no clear threats to any other nation, no intention of harm to other nations, warrants intervention by other nations?
      • Sep 4 2013: Are we discussing some other, ideal world?

        Ideally, the limits of sovereignty would be clearly and firmly established by international law, as would the consequences for breaking international law. The consequences should be appropriate to the original harm.

        Intervention in a sovereign country is justified by the harm being done. But the intervention will be resisted, so it involves an element of force, which causes harm. So the decision is between two forms of harm, and the crux of the decision will be the specific harms involved.

        It is very difficult to define, in general terms, when international intervention is justified. I think it makes more sense to establish a tribunal for making that decision for individual cases. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is impossible to establish an impartial tribunal. Also, at this point in history, it is impossible to make such decisions without considering which countries will supply the resources for the intervention.

        We might be able to establish some general guidelines regarding what types of crimes justify intervention, but I suspect that the evil doers of the world will be sufficiently creative to make any such guidelines inadequate. It is even possible that guidelines could be counterproductive, allowing the evil doers to game the system, to the detriment of their populations.

        In very general terms, intervention is justified when the harm being committed involves many lives. It is justified when the means used, like chemical weapons, has been outlawed by the international community.

        Our concepts about crimes keep changing. Andrew Jackson was considered a hero in the USA, largely because of the way he dealt with the native Americans. Today his actions would be considered a crime against humanity. Today, many of us believe that an intervention in Syria is clearly justified. After the fact, fifty years from now, the intervention might be considered just as criminal as the use of chemical weapons.
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    Sep 13 2013: I have new questions about "the limits pf Sovereignty" inspired by recent reading about Syrias political and economic history, the history of the rebellion and recent changes in the shape and nature of that.

    (1) does any nation established by military seizure of power and not affording free elections have equal claim to sovereignty? Are dictatorships "free game", free trade zones on whatever interventions any nation chooses for any reason? ( that seems to be the understanding......) .

    (2) is "civil war" within a "sovereign" nation something outsiders should get involved in if there are no legitimate humanitarian risks to "citizens" and no military threats to other nations? When we had what England still calls our "civil war" and what we call our revolutionary war other nations were involved for and against the revolutionaries.

    (3)The U.S., at least by rhetoric, seems to think that there is a consensus among free people that all persons seeking freedom, democracy and free choice should be supported and that that is a special case when it is "ok" for a nation to operate on its own and covertly. Is there consensus on that?
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    R H

    • 0
    Sep 12 2013: "...ok for anyone nation to act alone without a global consensus..." Surely you jest.
  • Sep 12 2013: "norms"
    OBAMA used that word several times the other day at his photo op.

    Other words --
    In secret session
    protect national interests
    defend national security

    A hundred more

    When you spend 30% on Defense and
    you use the money for Offense, something
    smells like poo.

    The US Gov't is a Secret Snake, who bites
    anyone they can.

    Words -- they appear, they disappear,
    but they don't stop WAR.
    ===
    OBAMA will possibly become the most hated
    man in the world. He has control of the devices
    to make that happen.

    How hated, he becomes, will depend on him.
    ===
    OBAMA has another choice.
    He can become beloved by all.
    It took Mohammed but 6 months.
    It took Jesus his youth.

    How long will OBAMA try.
    Will his name be associated with Bush or Clinton?
    Or better, with Mandela, or Gandhi?

    He has 3+ years to make his mark in history.
  • Sep 12 2013: President Obama has choices to make.
    And but 3+ years to make them.

    His choices are simple.
    He can become OBAMA "never ending memory of children".
    He can become OBAMA "never ending hope of those enslaved".
    -- or --
    He can go the way of his white predecessors.

    And, slowly fade until some country somewhere
    sends his Statue back, with a note "no thank you".
    ===

    It is nice to have choices.
    Pray OBAMA makes the right call.
    The World needs a HERO.
    • thumb
      Sep 12 2013: The world does indeed need heroes and each one of us is that hero the world needs
  • Sep 11 2013: Lindsay Newland Bowker
    Jumping to conclusions, by assigning guilt to the Syrian Government is a bit of a stretch.

    The alleged use of chemical weapons upon the innocent men, women and wee children of Syria,
    by party's unknown, would seem to be more truthful a statement to base your debate upon..
    ===
    The United States Government has a rich history of Lying to Start WARS.
    Most of us are aware of the bogus CIA intelligence that led to Colin Powell's
    persuasive false statements at the United Nations, resulting in WAR with Iraq.

    The week before Obama's "Call to Arms" against Syria, he'd already began to
    move his Navy Destroyers into place, and shifted his Aircraft Carrier fleet to assist.
    With 200 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at hand, he had his own Weapons of Mass
    Destruction to threaten Syria.

    Obama shot himself in the foot.
    He went on national TV to advise the American people of his plans to punish the
    Syria's government, and said plainly that he didn't need the Congress's approval
    to make a "limited strike upon Syrian soil.

    In Politics, like everything else. "Timing is critical".
    Obama had recently been a guest on the Jay Leno TV show. Jay asked him
    a tricky question about the NSA spy-surveillances of Americans. He lied
    when he said that the NSA did not do such things. A simple statement,
    that would then haunt him. Like Richard Nixon, he stuck his foot in his mouth.

    Most Democrats and Republicans had heard about it.
    Now when it mattered most, Obama's credibility was called into question.
    The Directors of DNI, NSA, and DHS had not been truthful themselves with
    the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
    More "inaccurate statements were surfacing. And, at the wrong time.

    Big mistake.
    ===
    Does anyone else wonder why the congress doesn't jail those who lie under Oath.
    I must just be blood-thirsty.
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      Sep 12 2013: Hi frank

      I think if you read the whole conversation you'll see we are all pretty much in agreement with what you have said here.

      No question I bring to TED contains my version of what I think the answer is. Those kinds of questions never lead anywhere fruitful.

      My question was an open one more prompted by than about Syria alone and all who have contributed here have evolved the exploration to places well beyond anything institutions will reach right now. It has been very fruitful and many many wonderful insightful comments and respectful exchanges..

      I thank you for being part of that process too .
      • Sep 12 2013: Thank you Lindsay.
        I'm falling asleep, will respond afterwards. lol
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    Sep 10 2013: This leaked document reported in Christian Sceince Monitor says that Iran has been warning the U.S. State Department for more than a year that a rebel faction within Syria possese and is using chemical weapons.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0909/Leaked-Iranian-letter-warned-US-that-Syrian-rebels-have-chemical-weapons



    If true ( both that such letters exist and they report accurately), aren't our officials violating sovereignty every time they fabricate and falsify the basis and purpose of their actions?

    Isn't sovereignty as a concept something that belongs to the people of a nation and not to the authority vested in their leaders?

    The beautiful eloquent and still relevant Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy has a lovely section on the expulsion and permanent banishment of those who abuse authority by using it for a purpose other than the welfare and well being of the all the peoples of the confederacy. All gather for the ceremony which the offending parry must personally present at. Each of the symbols of authority vested are one by one taken back and at the end the offending party walks out of the circle and away from all contact with all peoples of the confederacy forever.
    • Sep 10 2013: I highly doubt the authenticity of the claim. Its seems far too convenient.

      A rebel group got its hands on and is using chemical weapons, and a Sunni one at that? It fits the Iranian interest like a glove. There is every reason to suspect its fabricated, especially considering how close of a watch Assad has been keeping on his chemical arsenal to prevent exactly that.
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        Sep 10 2013: Be that as it may, ( and we may yet know the truth), what is your opinion on whether sovereignty belongs to "we the people or not" and whether pubic officials who lie or misrepesent facts to win our support violate our sovereignty and should be held accountable. Impeachmemt is sort of that but that is for only criminal not ethical breeches I believe.
    • Sep 12 2013: Lindsay Newland Bowker 50+
      "The beautiful eloquent and still relevant Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy
      has a lovely section on the expulsion and permanent banishment of those who
      abuse authority..."

      Dang it, Your good. Your good.
      I wish I could write so well...
      • thumb
        Sep 12 2013: Read the Iroquois Constitution..powerfully moving ( and thanks for your sweet comment)
  • Sep 9 2013: The only limit on national sovereignty is the power of other sovereigns or entities with quasi-sovereign power (international corporations). Any other claim is nothing but a naive fantasy.
    • thumb
      Sep 9 2013: that is "what is" no question there.
    • Sep 12 2013: Bryan,
      Commerce,
      Corporations and Limited Liability, Lobbies,
      The Corporate structure. Congress on steroids.
      Good ole' boy club-mates. aka: Regulators.
      Power. A strange word. Think about it. Really.

      1800's
      Individual Sovereignty is passed by your vote to
      some snake oil salesman, a guy on a soap-box.
      1900's
      Well entrenched Politicians carve up the nation.
      Bureau of Land Management and Banking Cartels
      take charge. Individual Sovereignty is stolen.
      2000's
      Your vote, now a sham, Propaganda from a
      Controlled media rules this nation's selections.
      Polls are the dot for the "I".
      ...The cross for the "T"?
      DNI, CIA, NSA, DHS, FBI,
      Enforcement not Privacy...
  • Sep 8 2013: unfortunately the current situation seems to be redefining the issue of sovereignty along the line of 'might makes right'.
    • Sep 9 2013: No redefining. That's how it always was, and probably always will be.
      Its just not very apparent in peace time when all the might is focused in the hands of the sovereign, and people get used to it enough to stop questioning it.

      Monopoly on violence is as crucial a concept to the state to function as a state as sovereignty is.
    • Sep 12 2013: Robert Mcdade.

      You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.

      What choices will OBAMA make to earn his place in History?
      Will he be another Ivan the Terrible?
      Or
  • Sep 8 2013: There needs to a United Nations setup and mandated “Failed State Ranking”. Every country would have a ranking which can be set by the UN at any time. If the ranking pasted a preset point there would be automatically activated a set of sanctions and remedies – including military intervention.

    Many states around the world are in varies forms of crisis and they mostly have got into their predicament because there was no early intervention.

    This system would leave governments in no doubt what would happen to them if they rig elections, form dictatorships or have internal conflicts. This solution is twofold: create a set of international rules and intervene early without exception based on known trigger points (rankings).

    After all we allowed a dictator to hold power in Syria and now we all upset that he is behaving like a dictator. The world needs to act earlier with legitimacy always in place.
    • Sep 8 2013: The UN would actually need a set of teeth to enforce that type of thing.

      The kind of teeth it doesn't, and will probably never have. The individual states don't want any international organization ruling over them as a matter of principle.
      • Sep 9 2013: The key point I am making is that automatic early intervention is best for all - this is simply a more orderly world where one does not gain from corruption.
        • Sep 9 2013: Fair enough.
          Looking at the UN to do it though... That I wouldn't count on.

          There's also a problem with the "automatic" part. Every case needs to be judged on its own merits.
    • Sep 8 2013: unfortunately america has been defying international convention for some time. america was condemned by the world court for mining nicaragua's harbors in the 80's, we just ignored it.
      • Sep 12 2013: Robert, I agree.
        The United States Government is the Fault.
        As Obama mentioned in his photo op.
        "we've been the world's policeman for 70 years, blah, blah.."

        Someone back in the day, put the idea out that
        the United States was the good guy and everyone
        should obey it's dictates.

        Since the United States was printing and giving away money,
        no other nation's leader wanted to complain, and lose out.

        The UK at that time, lost the British Sterling's position to the
        US Dollar. Their economy tanked. The Brits never fully
        recovered since. People suffered for many years. They
        still do.

        Today, the UK is mainly a Naval Power, they've become
        weakened as far as armed aggression is concerned, and
        their peoples are tired of WAR.

        Their peoples understand WAR kills their sons and never
        replaces the lost economies. They know that WAR is not
        going to make jobs more plentiful afterwards.
        ===

        Today, September 12, 2013, the US Dollar's position is at about
        the same point that the UK found themselves when their Sterling
        tanked. The US economy will more likely tank, than not. And,
        very - very soon.

        We do not have the monetary resources to allow OBAMA his WAR.
        ===
        Other nations are today, quietly, but quickly, making new
        alliances with new trading partners, without the US's participation.

        Nation's fail. Get used to it.
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      Sep 9 2013: Fraser,

      I like the "failed state" concept as a foundation for framing international agreements on in intervention. It usually refers to governnents incapable of delivering normalized state functions..schools, education, transportation, freedom from maurauders and crime .

      "failed States" refers to a situation where entire populations are caught in the grip of prolonged disorganization and chaos in which there is lawlessness, great suffering, poverty

      Syria is # 13 on the current list of failed states,. The rebels are causing as much violence and disruption as the Assad regime except for a tiny minority faction tha has no hope of changing the "failed state" staus of Syria..

      It is also the best "classification" for Egypt. People with advanced degrees were working for meager wagers and purchasing food took more than 50% of their wages. They weren't seeking democracy, they were seeking freedom from the deplorable and dehumanizing conditions of a "failed state"

      But the road to humanitrain relief can't ever be war can it?

      The Un is a miitray insiution. "Peace" to the UN means peace through military intrevention.

      Perhaps if we could define a stragey for "intervention" which would help a nations people pull themselves out of the kind of chaos and build their own government. What would that look like? An internional team of non-nation associated "facilitators" supporting whatvere leaders can be found within the country to create an interim governmnet of some kind?

      Although I never believe in the "new democrtacially elected government of Egypt, I dolike that the deposed leader was simply put under house arrest..

      What I am asking is what would the "next steps" be after we declare that a failed state needs intervention..

      And what criterion would put Syria ahead of the 12 other "failed states" now on this globe placing millions in intolerable conditions?
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      Sep 9 2013: Fraser,

      Right After my reply post above, a U.S. news panel of dinstiguished journaliss started to disclose that the crisis we now have in Syria was result of a an ex-officio, on the quiet failed , "failed nation sate" intervention by the U.S. crafted and carried our under Hillary Cilntons direction and in cpprdination with Saudi Arabia ( apparentlty they decided to try and fund and bring to the fore one of the rebel faction groups that seemed closer to reason and inclusion than other groups. It's really the same thing we did in Libya. )

      So official or unoffical there is an "intervention strategy" at work for "failed nations", albeit it without international consensus on what constitutes a "failed nation" , when intervention is appropriate and what kind of intervention is appropriate.

      those issues aside ( I assume it is a given that no nation should unilaterally act as a nation, sceretly or not to redirect another nation) would something along these lines work as a "failed state intervention" if the effort included more factions. Surely every faction in a country like Syria has some kind of conection to the outside world that is trusted and respected.

      What is the role of "unoffcial" diplomacy in a country like Syria where all order has broken down to a point where there is no peace or security for any of its ciizens? What should that unofficial diplomacy look like?What officials links, if any should it have back to nations or back to the U.N. security council..
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    Sep 7 2013: Two interesting notes with reference to our conversation here. A major U.S. Senator today said, more or less, we don't use the military to enforce some vague imagined international values."


    The phrase "imagined" international values struck me.

    And this film also struck me as we have pointed to clarity and transparency in documenting many incident that we might all agree warrants intervention. Like the Belfast Nobel prize winner, Mother Marian el-Salib does not believe the chemical attack footage is real.

    She also says that one of the many disorganized rebel factions is even more violent than Assad and has commitmet brutal atrocties on innocents in recent months without impunity or even a mention by anyone.


    http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/footage_of_chemical_attack_in_syria_is_fraud/MA: Everyone in Syria is facing grave danger. There was a case of Muslim religious leaders being kidnapped and beheaded. They were humiliated and tortured. Ismailis, the druze, Christians – people from all parts of Syrian society – are being mass murdered. I would like to say that if these butchers didn’t have international support, no one would have dared to cross the line. But today, unfortunately, the violation of human rights and genocide in Syria is covered up on the international level. I demand the international community stops assessing the situation in Syria in accordance with the interests of a certain group of great powers. "

    Mother Agnes Mariam el -Salib
    • Sep 7 2013: The word on the militias has some truth to it.
      They're a very diverse group, with everything from the most moderate of secularists to religious and nationalist fanatics. And yes, some of them do things just as bad as Assad, except use of chemical weapons, simply because they don't have access to those.

      The common consensus seems to be that once (and if) Assad goes, the militias turn on each other, like what happened in Afghanistan when the Soviets pulled out. The faster we can get to this stage, the shorter the war will be, but taking down Assad's regime will by no means end the war instantaneously.
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        Sep 7 2013: so even if there were truth to the use of chemical weapons, military intervention or ousting Assad would achieve nothing for the Syrian people and nothing for global interests?
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          Sep 8 2013: Exactly, ousting Assad would only bring chaos to Syria,and turning-around of global financial recover.
        • Sep 8 2013: I wouldn't say that.
          The militias need to fight it out for the war to end. The militias can only begin to fight it out once Assad is out of the picture.

          Its bound to get worse before it gets better, which means that it needs to get worse if Syria is ever to recover (as a region, not as a country--again, its not staying in one piece).
          That requires putting Assad's regime in the ground first.
          If Assad doesn't go, this war will plain and simple never end. Syria will just deteriorate into a perpetual state of civil war which can last for years and years.

          Think of it as chemo-therapy to treat cancer. The side effects may well hurt more than the actual illness at first, but will ultimately improve the situation.
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    Sep 7 2013: "the Syria debate signals that the country is finally liberating itself from the shackles imposed during the Bush years on an open discussion of our country’s interests and purposes. Democracy is often slow, but it eventually works" E.J Dionne Washington Post

    This I guess is the conversation I sought and that we have been having here on the issue of intervention in another country. It is really a question about reevaluating, reforming what we want our own nations to stand for as a sovereign nation and as a nation among nations in the world..

    That is the discussion Syria has brought the U.S. to and at the G-20 what nations are reconsidering. as well.

    When "we the people" reject or feel uneasy about a planned intervention in another country, even where there is broad agreement that we won't tolerate mass killings of civilans and children, aren't we called to say how we think it should work.

    We have taken steps in that direction here, in this conversation. We have said, I think, that mass killings of innocents within a country is a cause for intervention by other nations but that we do not want that to be distorted or constrained by a larger agenda that is about preserving military and economic power and control by a few nations. We want the basis to be only the broader principle of genocide, mass killing, simply wiping out all the rebels or unwanted ethnic or religious groups.

    What is it that we would have our nations do in the specific case of using weapons to suppress rebels that indiscriminately kill large numbers of innocents not engaged in rebellion.(assuming of course this has been adequately independently verified to "our" satisfaction).

    And what is it that we the people want our nations to do when and if it is perfectly clear that a country is producing nuclear or chemical weapons or an arms build up in a context of as Syria with alliances politically and economically aimed against "us"?
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    Sep 5 2013: "What brought me here are questions about the nuances and complications of "shared global values" we think exists..like that chemical weapons should not exist. Period."

    I can appreciate that Lindsay.

    In a perfect world, provided a countries actions do not impinge on the rights or safety of another country that countries choices regarding matters within its borders should be held sovereign.

    Does that more adequately address what you are looking for?
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      Sep 6 2013: I brought my own consideration of the nuances and complications of apparent shared global values that don't clearly translate to action..that classic gap between thought and action.

      In prior thought on "world governance" I had only gotten as far as things that affect others directly are forboden and we should do something about it.

      Aside from the reality that the U.S. is cooking up a humantitarian appeal to justify what it has wanted to do for some time, the asserted reason for intervention n Syria got me thinking about those nuances and shadows.

      There is nothing clear or resolved about any of it.

      And some of what has been said here has opened up other very fruitful insights about what really constitutes "a nation".

      I am glad for your thoughts and for your being here to share them.

      I never expect sudden clarity or sudden answers only better ways of understanding or seeking to understand what my gut reacts to.

      My gut didn't like a whole lot about what is being said to justify military intervention in Syria. And my gut also said wait a minute..isn't mass killing mass killing whether by chemical weapons or not..we only act when the instrument of mass killing happens to have a treaty governing it and then only if it is convenient or we ac because we don;t tolerate mass killing...and so on..you get my drift, I'm sure. Would drones that "inadvertently" kill the same number if innocents be ok?

      What exactly is our value ?if what is being invoked to justify invasion is a universally held value, how clear are we on what we will and will not tolerate.
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        Sep 6 2013: "how clear are we on what we will and will not tolerate."
        In the real world I'd have to say it depends on how upset big business interests are overtly or covertly.
        Wasn't it Napoleon who said "an army marches on its stomach"
        I'm not sure who it was that suggested to find the culprit you "follow the money trail" but I'm guessing what will or will not be tolerated is on a sliding scale directly tied to very powerful people's wallets, and not to public whim.
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          Sep 6 2013: have to agree that is the case now. See Lejan comment on what we ought to aim for..
  • Sep 5 2013: I believe our decisions might be different with real stakeholdes which could be created by a military draft. Remember- the best laid plans of mice and men oft have gone aglay.
    • Sep 5 2013: Why on earth would you want a military draft?
      This way, you have political pressure against all wars, even the ones you really should be fighting for your own better interest.
      Not to mention the economic cost of swelling the ranks of your military, especially when there is no military necessity to do so.

      I live in a country with mandatory conscription at the age of 18. As opposed to most countries, our political reality makes it a necessity, so we put up with the huge costs.
      Its not exactly a preferable situation. Its exorbitantly expensive both in finance and human misery.
      • Sep 6 2013: There are many variables involved, but you have given what at present seems one good reason - The people starting wars would not in this country be sending someone else's kid. Sounds good to me right now.
        • Sep 6 2013: Also take into effect that unlike a temporary draft set only for the duration of wartime, a permanent one can easily change the mindset of the entire populace.

          It turns it more militant, mostly. The hand actually goes easier on the trigger in the long run because most of the populace is of a former military mentality. If you're looking to make people avoid war through thinking of the possible costs, this isn't how you do it.
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      Sep 5 2013: George,

      I am a big believer in sortition..especially for governance. I am a big believer in the common wisdom,

      Where it all goes wrong is in the tyranny of the majority instead of a collaborative .search for meaningful workable sustainable solutions.

      In compromise instead of real solutions.

      In treaties that aren't solutions.

      There is nothing magic in sortation ttself unless it includes a process or many voices and real solutions.

      Greece, our first democracy where governance was by sortition proved that. They were so greedy for the spoils of war they reached too far from hoe to conquer distant enemies and collapsed....a majority decision.
      • Sep 6 2013: I guess I don't have a simple answer. I am tired of efforts to help whoever - ? countries or is it contractors or oil companies or international trade that is In countries that are countries in name only and have little reason to be together. Syria is another collection of tribes who hate each other and will happily commit war crimes on the weakest among them. So we have been busy trying to do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq when changing a few lines on a map might have helped the average inhabitant so much more.
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          Sep 6 2013: Hello George..nice to meet you and thank you for coming to probe through all thhe public policy and humanitarian issue the Syria situations resents..

          We seem to be all coming back to whether soverignty exists at all in nations whose boundaries were created by foreigners with continuing political and economic aims within the region. You are quite correct that because "we" never give up our economic tues to those contries and carefully orchestrated governance so as not to pose any threat to those interests there never really is sovereignty for the artificially created nations.

          All my life what I knew as Yugoslalvia was never really historically a "nation" and it never really became or worked as a nation. never had a national identity.

          Considering the social and tribal histories was not part of what set the boundaries of these "artificial nations" so there is never a national identity that emerges. There is only who is in power and their ties and promises to foreign powers . Here we have questioned whether that can really be called sovereignty.

          So the questions I had n my heart that brought me back to the TED community aren't really the right questions to ask to get to the issue I was struggling with. And in all our past discussions here at TED about global governance we weren't asking the right questions.

          Here in tis discussion I think we have "crwd sourced" the root problem or at least laid out some of its dimensions.. Essentially we don't have naturally formed evolved sovereign states in the propr use of that word "sovereign". We have units of political power that were established on principles external to the shared history that would" normally" constitute a nation.

          So interfering in these nations is a military matter ,enforcing prior treaties and agreements formed and imposed protect foreign economic interests and to prevent the creation of an alternate power of any force or threat to the foreign political and economic .
      • Sep 6 2013: All these are good points It won't happen in America because the people who think they are special and in control don't want it right now. I just feel that there should be consequences to ones acts. Gibbons attitude in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empiore concerned more long term problems.
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          Sep 6 2013: Could you say more about Gibbons?

          The only consequences that result in actions by one nation within another are thos ethat threaten the political and economic interests of the intervening, controlling nations. All the language about humanitarian misisons and aiding rebels in achieving self governance and other lofty values are just pasted on top of the structures we have put in place which are utlimately about protecting foreign economic intersts with military force.

          But underneath that the reason they get to make this "sell" of military intervention for these high principles must reflect their assessment that there are in fact an underlysig set of shared global values. held by "we the people" of the world.

          A frst call we can make towards this shift is independent verification which has been suggested by contributors here as key. And at the same time we can insist on a broader truly humanitarian basis for interventions and lay out non military tools for achieveing that.
          In a way that is what "we thepeople"lof the world are demanding.

          We are not letting the militant and economic interests simply get away with it this time.

          Do we need to surface the truth behind the timing of this intervention or will we be able to make a small step toward change by not consenting to it without independent verification. and also some step in the direction of broader than military reasons and methods?

          Some of what we have started to lay out here suggests those elements. For example we could demand a more inclusive standard of "atrocities" and clear nonmilitary guidelines for intervention.

          And it seems we need an institution other than the UN to make this shift. The UN is all locked up in this other military economic interest paradigm.

          In the meantime, "we the people" in our own nations can just hold the ground on Syria and not let this charade be played out again. We can't change the political culture of the UN until we change the political culture of our own nations
      • Sep 7 2013: That's what I think. but
        I will have to admit that Yugoslavia seemed more a nation than Iraq and Afghanastan.
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    Sep 4 2013: So a consensus is emerging among our thoughtful collaborators/contributors that even the idea of sovereignty in any meaning sense does not exist. That it's a matter of power and control. We tolerate atrocities and pray they won't become too well documented amonsgt "allies" who serve our interest. We look for any excuse to "correct" agreements gone wrong and win popular support for it through appeals to widely held values and to international agreements expressed in treaties.

    People all over the world see and know this and are rising up to say they will not let their leaders use military force, boots or no boots but do want their nations to take some effective action to influence Syria away from chemical weapons.

    I was shocked, for example, to see how few diplomatic sanctions were in place by the EU or US against Syria prior to this incident.
    • Sep 4 2013: Sanctions honestly wouldn't do much at this stage.
      The Assad regime, and the entire Allawy minority is more or less fighting for survival at this stage. Attempts at diplomacy or economic incentive (either carrot or stick) are futile. There is no bargaining with a man who has nothing to loose--short of threatening to kill him sooner, you have no leverage (aside from selling him weapons like the Russians are doing, which would sort of counter what you're trying to accomplish in this case).

      What some bleeding hearts don't understand is that sometimes, force of arms really is the only solution.
      Its not necessarily a good solution. It may not even be a practical solution. But when its do or die, everything else just looses meaning.

      Besides, at this stage, removing Assad won't stop the war.
      If he stays, the country deteriorates further into a failed state, and the whole thing becomes a militia run no-man's-land, with Assad owning the biggest militia. Honestly, we're not very far from that particular scenario as is.
      If he goes, the various militias turn on each other, fighting for scraps, like they did when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. I doubt any one particular group will be more dominant that others like the Taliban was however, which leads to Syria fragmenting into warring factions.

      Some of these militas are quite reasonable. Others are religious or nationalist fanatics. Worst part is, they mostly hate each others' guts, only working together until the common foe is gone, and there are more of them than you can shake a stick at.
      Try to solve that mess through diplomatically...
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        Sep 4 2013: This Belfast Peace & Reconciation nobel prize winner says no outside interference is necessary to resovle the internal conflict

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msA35ATXol8&feature=youtu.be

        Is she off base?

        And in any event what s the basis of a justified intervention by the U.S. or any other nation?

        Of it is about use of chemical weapons on rebels and if so souldn't here be inpdependent verification of that?
        • Sep 5 2013: From a purely practical standpoint, the solution that would lead solving the Syrian civil war is massive occupation by foreign troops.

          They'd have to duke it out first with Assad, than some of the militias, but should have overwhelming force enough to handle both. The following step should be the peaceful fragmenting of Syria into separate states based on geography of minority groups, and even then the process will involve a lot of violence.

          It'll also never happen. There is no international will to invade Syria. Obama is having a hard enough time just authorizing some airstrikes.

          Dropping bombs may hasten the fall of Assad, but it won't solve the war. It comes with the possible advantage of taking out some of the chemical weapons so that they can't fall to militias for the benefit of nearby countries.
          Its not a solution for the atrocities though, and should not be mistaken as one. Its a Western show of force.
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        Sep 5 2013: Nadav,

        answering violence with violence is not a path to peace or a voice that can bring justice.

        there can be no unity without diversity.

        all nations must be inclusive and have laws that serve humanity and serve planet earth.

        The solution cannot be returning to old tribal camps and chieftans.

        No sovereignty that is based on other than inclusion has a place on this 21c globe.
        • Sep 5 2013: All those high ideals aren't worth much once you find yourself staring down the wrong end of the barrel of a gun.

          Might makes right, plain and simple. Power flows down the barrel of a gun. Before that, it was the edge of a sword. It was tooth and claw long before humans arrived at the scene.

          This isn't about returning to a tribal structure. Syria needs to be taken apart into many smaller countries for its own sake.
          Diversity doesn't necessarily lead to acceptance. Syria is a colonial lie--there are no Syrian people. There are many minorities lumped together under what used to be one rule. If it is reunited following the civil war, it'll just deteriorate into a new civil war down the line. Too much bad blood.

          Seeing as Syria won't fragment peacefully, it must fragment by force.
          A foreign occupation would simply hasten the process, leading to less lives lost overall. Again though, that's not a realistic scenario. Instead, the war goes on.
          With some of the factions fighting for their lives, and others being too fanatical to negotiate with, there can be no diplomatic solution.

          Is it a backwards way of looking at things? Probably.
          Unfortunately that's just how the world works. Its easy to forget that our entire system of government and sovereignty is based on one ruling body having a monopoly on violence. Once you've lost it, it must be regained for a state to function as a state. And that can only be done in one way.
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        Sep 5 2013: Nadav,

        That Syria is a politically created "sovereignty" is true of many nations.

        That those boundaries were established by non indigenous foreign powers with very particular aims in mind that had nothing to to do with the well being of the new unwilling "nationals" of a synthetic kingdom is also unquestionably true.

        That these synthetc, politically created "kingdoms" weren't ever meant to achieve peace and well being for the new nationals is also unquestionably true. More often than not , it has been about continuing control and power by the foreign creators(s) of the boundaries.

        In fact that set of realities would make a very interesting and worthy separate conversation here at TED.

        Even here in America, 150 years after our own civil war, the differences in culture, values, traditions between north and south are so pronounced it is often a stretch to say we are truly one nation with one consciousness, one heart . Treaties, constitutions laws etc. don't erase those ancient "tribal" enmities.

        You are quite right in your basic point here and in your current TED Conversation , that you can't just "pin" a constitution, parties and free elections on and expect everything to work all right.

        The underlying form and structure of shared values must arise from and express the "consent of the governed" the will of the governed. Without that nothing can work.

        The tyranny of the majority is not te same as the "will of the governed"
  • Sep 4 2013: In practice, might makes right, and international law is nothing more than words on paper. Its relevant if someone powerful decides to enforce it, but on its own, the UN can be readily ignored by those who find it inconvenient. Without a proper military to assert its will, its a barking dog with no teeth, though its joint owners may sometimes get upset enough to do something.

    Its also not a question of sovereignty.
    Syria hardly exists as a nation anymore--its in a perpetual state of civil war, with the former government in control of less than half the country. There is no Syrian people, its a whole bunch of minorities lumped together under one government by a colonial mistake.
    Assad has lost any legitimacy he had when his country fell apart around him.

    As for the intervention itself, its not about humanitarianism. It never is.
    There were chemical attacks in Syria before this one, well documented, and quite lethal. They simply didn't kill quite so many people due to weather conditions. Even without the chemical attacks, more than a hundred thousand people were killed by perfectly conventional means throughout the past couple of years in some of the worst atrocities seen in the modern era.
    The attack is purely about asserting Western power over the area, to remind the region that it still matters. It would have happened sooner, by Syria's fossil fuel reserves are less impressive than Libya or Iraq's, which makes it strategically unimportant.

    Sovereignty works well on paper, and when everyone is still playing by the rules. Its more a matter of international norms than anything, though those norms can be quite powerful under regular circumstances.
    As of Syria going completely FUBAR, the regular playbook goes out the window, then crushed under a tank tread and set on fire.
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    Sep 4 2013: Suppose however any people are alleged to have been killed by chemical weaaons within Syria, had instead just been rounded up in village squares and shot? or just surrounded and burnt out. Suppose that were the internal policy? Is that a different offense that the use of lethal chemical weapons if the same number of people are being killed and that is the intent of the internal policy?
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    Sep 4 2013: All the lies about Syria, spread in the world media business, tell us about the new enemy figure in the international scenery. Hearing the Obama speach announcing the US intervention in a very tactical manner (no dates, no forms)
    part of the truth reveal the real matter: Oil, and control in energy businnes. The use or not of chemical weapons represents the worm in the hook, but here is hidden another reality...the absolute lack of human interest from the US bureaucracy and his absolute obedience to the British hand, hidden as allways. War is the biggest known business, no more. More than a year ago the media business start the anty-Syria campaign in the international press. Constructing the fear in order to justify the reaction is the traditional way used by the US, from the Mayflower days.
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      Sep 4 2013: Hello my dear dear friend and thank you for coming to help me work through in my own heart and head this philosophical issue of what kinds of internal actions by a country, if any, rise to collective action by another nation or group of nations.

      I share your views on what is really going on here politically and that is a whole other conversation also continuing past TED conversations we have enjoyed together.

      What I had in mind here is not so much looking for the truth in this current discussion on intervention ostensibly based on humanitarian transgressions that warrants action but on the question of , if that were true, are wholly internal actions of a country with no spreading beyond its borders actionable? Is the use of lethal chemical weapons on one's own citizens actionable by other nations?

      Although I don't think our discussion here has progressed far enough into the issue to talk about how interventions should be decided and what interventions are of a scale to the offense, I am thinking of the sullivan principles and economic sanctions that worked so well on Apartheid.

      How does the urgency and immediacy and numbers of people at risk change decisions on transcending sovereignty? If what they claim is happening in Syria were real is that a specific level of uigency that requires immediacy in the intervention?
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    Sep 4 2013: All my life I challenged my parents on why no one intervened in the holocaust and what others knew .

    Now as Syria's use of chemical weapons on its own citizens is in the foreground, I find I am not so clear on what happens after we all agree they shouldn't be doing that.

    We seem to have a situation where we do in fact have a consensus on the shared value that chemical weapons should not be used on anyone but we all seem adrift on what the appropriate action is.and what kind of intervention that warrants.

    An example in recent history is apartheid. There other nations expressed their intolerance of that internal policy through the Sullivan principles, economic sanctions , and global consumer boycotts of South African gold and other goods.

    Does that apply to all internal "affronts to humanity"
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      Sep 4 2013: I believe this is because as children we believe in right and wrong in a true sense, while the world is ruled by adults with business interests in which right and wrong are dictated by profit and loss.
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        Sep 4 2013: Right..and we visited this a while back here at TED Conversations at my conversation " Is Democracy Synonymous with Capitalism". And of course it is.

        When our president talks about "U.S. Interests" he means both the business interests of major corporations and the protection of treaties and balances of power that serve those interests. The sell to "we the people" is on most likely false humanitarian relief appeals.

        That's a whole other conversation.

        But let's just say there is an urgent humanitarian issue within a country..a policy being pursued that will wipe out an entire group of people, a policy of mass destruction by lethal chemical weapons..

        Does that rise to a level of actionable concern outside that country?

        Does acting in one country require the same action in all countries where the result is the same? ,
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          Sep 4 2013: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Socialist.

          Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
          Because I was not a Jew.

          Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

          Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)