Hi, folks! Sorry it's taken me so long to sign in, but I've been recovering from LoneStarCon3. Whew! One whopping big convention it was, too. The ConCom assigned me two alternate roadies -- Chris Cook and Joe Abbott: thanks, guys! -- and I seriously needed them, both as pack-horses and trusty native guides. The con was spread out over two hotels and the Convention Center, and I really needed help toting my guitar and songbook-bag back and forth between them.
And a full schedule I had, too -- two or three panels per day, three concerts (including one from the exhibit hall, where I sang "Banned From Argo" -- the one time per year I do it -- from a remarkable mockup of the bridge of the Enterprise), the nightly filks, rehearsals, and singing for the Masquerade half-time show and the memorial section of the Hugo Awards. Phew! I daresay they got their money's worth out of me. Hopefully, since so many fans were taking pix and videos of me, a lot of my sings will wind up on YouTube.
Anyway, one of the panels I sat on was "Is An Armed Society Really A Polite Society?", and you can guess what my answer was. The panel fielded questions from the audience based on observed cases: Switzerland, which gave Heinlein his inspiration in the first place; the comparison of Morton Grove, Illinois, with Kinnesaw, Geogia; and finally the example of Arizona, which I could comment knowledgeably upon. All the real-life examples proved that, yes, when everybody is armed and everybody knows it, the violent-crime rate is exceedingly low and -- yes -- people are generally very polite.
Somebody from the audience came up with the question of: what about other cultures -- such as the middle-east -- where anybody who has weapons goes out and shoots up his neighbors in the name of religion; would arming everybody still work there? Now bear in mind that I hadn't had a chance to see a TV news program, or read a newspaper, in days -- so I had no idea of what was happening in Syria. Still, knowing something of Arab culture and history, I replied: "Yes. Give small arms to everybody, and let the fanatics fight it out until they kill each other off, and only the sensible people are left standing."
...And the whole audience cheered.
I didn't have much time to ponder that until the con ended and I was on my way home. While waiting for my bus in the Greyhound station, I got to watch the TV news and saw Obama's first speech about Syria. My first thought was: are we sure that it was Assad who used the poison gas on his own people? My second was: where is he now? My third was: the rebels are made up of at least a dozen factions, and in Assad's absence they would certainly fall to fighting among themselves. And my fourth thought was to remember how the audience had cheered my comment. By the time I got home I had a pretty good idea what was going on, and a pretty good idea of what the US should do. I kept quiet about it, though, until Obama made his second speech Tuesday evening.
So here's my take on it. First, no, Obama is nobody's fool. He came out of the Chicago Democratic Party, which means the old Daley Machine. I lived in Chicago for 12 years (from what I hear, I'm still voting there!), and got to know the local politics well; believe me, nobody gets very far in the Daley Machine without being smart. He may personally like the Arabs and like the Muslim Brotherhood, but he's too smart to politically tie himself to a sinking ship. He could have gone ahead and unilaterally ordered an Air Force strike on Assad's territory, but he bothered to ask for Congress' support. Why? For one thing, because he knew that the Republicans in the House of Reps would automatically do the opposite of whatever he asked for, which would make the GOP -- which has been a big supporter of the military, the Patriot Act, and so on -- look like a bunch of hypocritical fools for not wanting to stomp Assad. Second, in explaining how he knew that it was definitely Assad who used the poison gas (and even releasing video footage of the aftermath), he revealed that the US's spy system in the middle-east is very detailed and extensive, which should give any intelligent Jihadist pause. Third, he gave himself an escape-hatch in case the citizens want to stomp Assad but Congress refuses to OK it. Not dumb.
As to what should be done: no, there is no good side in the Syrian civil war -- a vicious despot, secretly backed by Iran and Russia and Al-Qaeda on one side, and a collection of assorted Jihadists (particularly the Muslim Brotherhood) on the other. They were efficiently killing each other off until Assad risked using poison gas -- Sarin -- on the rebels. Yes, that is definitely "over the line"; we really can't allow "weapons of mass destruction" (nukes, poison gas, weaponized diseases) to get, or stay, in the hands of oriental despots. It's that simple. Saddam Hussein didn't really have nukes, as Bush hinted, but he too had used Sarin gas on his own people (the Kurds) and was playing with germ warfare; therefore the US military took him out, and his own people made it permanent. Assad, likewise, has to be taken out, permanently -- if only because Achmedinejihad is watching, and if Assad is allowed to get away with gassing his own people (after which it would be no great step to using it on Israel, or us), then Achmedinejihad will feel emboldened to do more than just posture and threaten about developing nukes. Even Russia has seen this, and note that Putin has backed away from his earlier posturing and harrumphing. The quickest and most effective way to stop Assad and discourage Achmedinejihad is to bomb Syria flat; bomb every building or construction that could possibly conceal or manufacture those reported tons of poison gas -- not to mention any building that Assad could be hiding in. Besides killing Assad and destroying his Sarin stocks, this would also leave Syria in no condition to fight anybody with anything except small arms: rifles, grenades and grenade-launchers.
The rebels could then claim to have won the country -- and, no longer united by a common enemy, would start fighting among themselves. It wouldn't take much to encourage such standard Arab behavior, and the CIA could always find ways to supply small-arms to whichever faction might be losing, so as to keep the fight going. Besides giving warning to Achmedinejihad, this would continue the US's long-term strategy of killing off the Jihadist fanatics; if we're not killing them ourselves in Iraq or Afghanistan, this is an excellent way to make them kill off each other. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with asides in Pakistan) have so far killed off at least 225,000 Jihadists, at a cost to the US of $4 trillion but less than 5000 lives. Getting the Jihadists to kill off each other in Syria would be even cheaper: maybe $1 billion in bombs, rockets and airplane fuel, and less than $50 million in small arms and ammo. Syrian Jihadists have already killed off roughly 100,000 of each other, with no help from us; with only a little encouragement they could do even better.
And make no mistake, this is a war of extermination; the Jihadists themselves have made it so. Everyone in the middle-east has dutifully told us the same thing. The religious fanatics will not stop killing everyone who isn't just like them, not until they're killed themselves. They want the world, and will settle for nothing less than death. We can't let them have the world, so we have no choice but to oblige their second wish.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(