I will be on holiday for the month of May this year, therefore there will be no new posts over this time. Regular blog updates will be back to normal in June.
Monthly Archives: April 2018
2018: Western Powers Bomb Syria
The press and social media is aflame this week over the joint surgical strike by 105 American, British and French missiles against chemical weapon facilities in Syria. The attack was a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Assad regime 9 days earlier, which violated international law and crossed the ‘red line’ set by Obama five years ago and by Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
The move is most controversial in the US. Donald Trump ordered the strike without congressional approval, which is technically unconstitutional, and alienated elements of his support base. Curiously both political opposition and support for the strikes crosses the partisan line.
The official narrative: On 7th April 2018 Syrian government forces broke international law by attacking the rebel held city of Douma with chemical nerve agents, killing 70 and injuring 500. Videos circulated of men, women and children clutching gas masks in makeshift hospitals and foaming at the mouth. The US state department confirmed the attack was real and Assad was responsible.
According to Russia and Assad the gas attack was a false flag operation by the Army of Islam, who holds Douma, and the White Helmets, volunteers who assist civilians in rebel territory. This was to provoke retaliation by the West against Assad, which worked as a charm. Note this narrative does not deny that chemical weapons were used.
Conspiracy theorists and the fringe media paint the attack as a text book false flag operation to justify intervention in Syria as was done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Vietnam etc. This view is shared by far right personalities like Alex Jones, hacktivist group Anonymous and innumerable posts on my newfeed.
Whether or not the gas attack did happen, or Assad was responsible, critics fear the strike could further entangle the US in Syria or, worse still, risk open war with nuclear armed Russia and Iran. The doomsday bells are ringing.
That said, the strike is restrained, and aligns with US policy. Despite Trump’s claims of ‘mission accomplished’, the mission was ultimately little more than a show of force. The Pentagon admitted it will unlikely deter future chemical attacks, while Syrian rebel groups criticised the strike as ultimately ineffective. There were no reported casualties.
The following spoke in support of the missile strike:
- Angela Merkel, German Chancellor
- Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President
- Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, Saudi King
- Tayip Erdogan, Turkish President
- Jens Stoltenburg, Nato Secretary General
- Jean-Claude Juncker, European Union President
- John McCain, Republican Senator
- Elizabeth Wahren, Democrat Senator
The following spoke against:
- Vladimir Putin, Russian President
- Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, Iranian Supreme Leader
- War Media Channel, Hezbollah
- Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party leader
- Marine Le Penn, French National Front leader
- Cenk Uyghur, The Young Turks
- Tucker Carlson, Fox News
- Tomi Lahren, Great America PAC, Fox News
- Alex Jones, Infowars
- Mike Cervnovich, Danger & Play
The strike is an indicator of the Trump Administration’s move from the America First support base which brought him to power. Just as Obama promised to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq in 2008, Trump promised to cooperate with Vladimir Putin over Syria and limit involvement to combatting ISIS instead of the Assad regime. Whilst his administration refrains from the no fly zone promised by the hawkish Hillary Clinton, the move seems out of touch with Trump’s anti-interventionist campaign rhetoric and particularly his earlier criticisms of Obama.
The alt right blogosphere in particular, who normally stand by Trump’s every action, has lost faith in their hero.
This has happened before: Assad was previously accused of gassing civilians in Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun one year ago. The US responded to Khan Sheikhoun with a missile attack at weapon facilities in Sharyat. Although a few more missiles were fired this April so far the result has been little different than it was last year, except less people were killed. That strike was the first notable rift between the alt right support base and establishment Republicans, as represented by Steve Bannon and the ‘globalist’ Jared Kushner. Bannon has since been fired.
The US has admitted removing Assad from power is not on their agenda anymore. If the powers that be truly wished to instigate WW3, their response to the Douma attack would have been swifter and more aggressive. Given what happened last year, as it stands we are hardly at the brink of Armageddon.
Sources: BBC, CNN, Fox News, New York Times, Haaretz, Al Jazeera, Sputnik, The Guardian, The Independent, The Atlantic, Young Turks
An Empire is when one sovereign state rules over others: different countries and peoples controlled by one government. This contrasts with the modern nation state, where a culture and language have a country of their own. Rome, for example, was an empire, modern Italy is a nation state.
Empires are as old as time and their cycle of creation and destruction drives history. Empires may be ruled by a single monarch such a king or emperor, or a single government. The Athenian Empire consisted of multiple city states governed by the citizens of Athens. It identified as a simple alliance, but historians consider it an empire.
I define empires by one of three categories:
- Direct: One sovereign state governs other territories over contiguous land. Upheld by force and rule of law. (Romans, Mongols, Ottomans)
- Colonial: A country rules overseas territories, sometimes indirectly, for the purpose of trade and resource extraction. Upheld by force, rule of law and naval power. (British, French, Portuguese)
- De Facto: The Empire does not recognise itself as such but exerts influence through indirect means. Upheld by treaties, economic contracts and military bases. (Athens, Venice, China in Southeast Asia, American Empire).
Starting with Sargon of Akkad in ancient times, a series of empires dominated the Near East and China. By the 300s, Alexander the Great had conquered an Empire spreading from Greece to India. Two centuries later, the Romans ruled the Mediterranean.
From the 1500s to the 1900s European colonial empires dominated the world. The British Empire was the largest. Most conflicts today are a legacy of colonialism.
Today the largest empires are American and Chinese, though neither of them identify as such.
The longest lasting Empire belonged to the Romans, who ruled from 275 BC to 1453 AD, over 1600 years when counting the earlier Republican period and its successor the Byzantine Empire. Although not the largest, the Roman Empire was easily the most influential, at least in Europe.
The largest direct empire, and second largest of all time, was the Mongol Empire (1206-1368). It was founded not by an organised state, as was the case in the other empires listed, but by nomadic tribes from Inner Asia.
The largest of all time was the British Empire (1533-1997), which at its peak ruled a quarter of the world’s people and land.
According to Wikipedia, these are the largest empires of all time. A more accurate way to measure an Empire’s influence would be their population, however this is difficult as most figures would be estimates at best. Being difficult to determine, this list does not include de facto empires like the Warsaw Pact.
Largest ancient empires by landmass:
- Han Dynasty (East Asian), 4.36% of the earth’s landmass in 100 AD
- Achaemenid Empire (Middle Eastern), 3.69% in 500 BC
- Macedonian Empire (European), 3.49% in 323 BC
- Roman Empire (European), 3.36 %, 117 AD
- Maurya Empire (South Asian), 3.36% 250 BC
Largest medieval empires by landmass:
- Mongol Empire (Central Asian), 16% in 1309
- Muslim Caliphate (Middle Eastern), 7.45% in 750
- Ming Dynasty (East Asian), 4.36% in 1450
- Gorturk Khaganate (Central Asian), 4.03% in 557
- Tang Dynasty (East Asian), 3.63% in 1715
Largest modern empires by landmass:
- British Empire (European), 23.84% in 1920
- Russian Empire (European), 15.3% in 1885
- Qing Dynasty (East Asian), 9.87% in 1790
- Spanish Empire (European), 9.20% in 1810
- Second French Empire (European), 7.72% in 1920
When they are forged empires cause war, misery, death and destruction and require violent and authoritarian power structures to uphold their rule. However empires are also unifying forces; through them common languages, religions and legal systems have spread across the world.