Author Topic: Syria Superthread [merged]  (Read 512909 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Syria Superthread [merged]
« on: September 17, 2004, 01:03:04 »
Sorry about eating up more bandwidth but this topic looked interesting and may be noteworthy

The Korean reference is covered in this thread

http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,19221.30.html


http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/
Quote
Syrians, Syrians everywhere
 
Agence France Presse reports that a German newspaper Die Welt will report - based on "unnamed western security sources" - that Syria has tested chemical weapons on civilians in the war-torn Sudanese province of Darfur, resulting in dozens of deaths.


"Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan. Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.

"According to Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south. But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur."
Just lovely - if true (via the Best of the Web).

You might recall a few months ago in North Korea, when a giant explosion leveled the Ryongchon train station and much of the neighborhood, "Syrian technicians" were among the casualties.

Seems like, with Iraq knocked out, Syria is getting awfully keen to fill in the vacancy at the Axis of Evil.

I was trying to find a couple of other links that I have seen that referred specifically to the relationship of the Syrian government hiding Iraqi Baathists and equipping and training "recruits" for Iraq.

Anybody else got any links about Syrian activity?
« Last Edit: May 06, 2017, 14:18:17 by kratz »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2004, 03:18:26 »
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/040914/1/3n4ir.html

Here is the Agence France Presse / Die Welt article referred to above.
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline pbi

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 32,680
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 3,641
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2004, 10:46:48 »
They should be careful. The US warned them once already to behave themselves.

Cheers.
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2004, 11:32:58 »
The AFP story was picked up by the Washington Times
http://washingtontimes.com/world/20040916-102058-3651r.htmThi


Curiously they mention that they have had other reports that they published

Quote
This is not the first report of chemical weapons use in Sudan.
      The Washington Times reported last month that Sudan's air force sprayed a village in the Darfur region with a powder that killed two persons and dozens of cattle.
      A Sudanese air force Antonov plane in May dropped several rectangular plastic sacks containing a white, flourlike powder on a wadi â ” a dry riverbed â ” in the lower part of the village, eyewitnesses told The Times.
      The Times report said a jet fighter on the same day dropped a bomb on the other side of the village that produced a poisonous smoke that affected about 50 villagers.

As to the western source of the reports, the US doesn't appear to be the origin (from the same article)

Quote
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher cast doubt on the newspaper report, saying he had no information on such an attack and that it would have been unlikely for an attack of this type to have taken place without the United States knowing about it.

Coupled with the silence of the US on the North Korean blast it makes me wonder if US intelligence's reputation has been so degraded that the US interests are better served these days by keeping quiet and let information get out by other means.

Another interesting observation from this article about the USMC operating in Chad, the Black African, as opposed to the Arab African, desert state adjacent to the Darfur region of Sudan, training and upgrading the Chad border guards.   http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0917/p06s01-woaf.html.   This is usually the stomping ground of the French Foreign Legion.

A year or so ago I remember reading an article about the USMC conducting joint training with the FFL in Djibouti, the tiny coastal country on the other side of Sudan.   Sudan appears to be bracketed, even if tenuously.

The article also mentions an uptick in US cooperation with other countries of the Sahel, like Nigeria.


Is this part of an emerging containment strategy?   Divide Dar-al-Islam and Isolate?


In Iraq the main players are Shiite Arabs, Shiite Persians, Sunni Arabs, Sunni Kurds and Socialists of all types.

Folks like Al-Zarqawi and Bin-Laden have been calling for a unified front against the West but as is becoming obvious to the west there is precious little trust amongst the communities, resulting in the current speculation about civil war.  

In today's National Post, an item from memri.com   suggests that Zarqawi at least is starting to exhibit a degree of frustration and seeing an "everybody's against me" situation.   "The war in Iraq is against a "tri-partite Satanic alliance of heresy and deceit" of Americans, Kurds and Shiites: "The first are the Americans who carry the banner of the cross; the second are the Kurds through their peshmerga forces, which are reinfoced by Jewish military cadres; the third are the Shiites, the Sunnis enemies, represented by the army of treachery.... the Party of Satan" The article appeared on the Editorials page.


So if I can summarize, the battle lines may be starting to become a little clearer.

On one side there are the Wahabist Arab Muslims engaged with the Iranian Mullahs and the Syrian Socialists actively cooperating with the North Koreans.   The Mullahs and the Wahabists are best served by Muslim unity against the West.

On the other side is everybody that has a historical grievance against the Arabs.   This includes Black Africans of the Sahel (sold by Arabs for slaves for millenia, the Americas were just a market that flourished for a while and dried up), the Spanish, the Austrians, the peoples of the Balkans recruited to be slave soldiers, the Hindus of India (who were so busy fighting Muslims that they let the British in to help in their wars), the people of the Steppes (the northern Alliance in Afghanistan), native peoples of Indonesia and the Phillipines (the Dhow culture of Sea Traders/Raiders that "converted" these lands is, I believe, predominately an Arab culture) and finally the Persians (the people the Iranian Mullahs claim to represent).

If all of these other Muslims can be directed toward the predominately Wahabist Sunnis then the "clash of civilizations" might be avoided.   This seems to be a likely and developing US strategy.

Zarqawi's outburst suggests that they might be having some success - Al Sadr may represent the "army of Treachery" and/or he just represents the limits of the Mullahs control.   They can't control al Sadr, let alone his followers, or Iraqi Shiites and are having difficulty at home.   They can influence but at this time the can't dominate.

There are an awful lot of fault lines there for the Great Satan to exploit.

A final thought, from a longterm strategic point of view, as opposed to a short-term presidential election point of view, instability in Iraq and Islam is not necessarily a bad thing.   It gives the west more freedom of action. It supplies a magnet for all the malcontents. It forces the malcontents to constantly watch their back.   It uses up the malcontents resources.   All of which means that the can't be spending as much time and effort on consolidating forces for major attacks on the west.

In short a very Cold War strategy, both sides try to generate domestic instability in their opponents camp and fight small engagements at long range, often covertly, often by proxy.

Mullahs = Kremlin,  Syrians = Cuba,  Al Qaeda and JI  = Red Brigades and RAF (German Red Army Faction)?

Which brings us back to mysterious explosions in North Korea.


Jeez, I think I have outdone myself today. ;)

Cheers.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2004, 12:42:06 by Kirkhill »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2004, 13:21:36 »
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0917/p08s03-comv.html

CS Monitor Editorial - Dancing with Damascus
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2004, 13:42:02 »
If the Dancing With Damascus article describes Isolating Syrian Generals from Syrians at large, does this article http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20040916-085027-3843r.htm describe Isolating Extremist Wahabist Sunni Arab Muslims?
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Bruce Monkhouse

    is thinking beach volleyball.

  • Lab Experiment #13
  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 229,070
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 14,513
  • WHERE IS MY BATON?
    • http://www.canadianbands.com./home.html
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2004, 13:50:03 »
Very good article.
 Kirkhill, it looks like your posting to yourself but thats not the case, I'm finding this very interesting but know very little of this region so myself and I'm sure others are just lurking. Thanks
IF YOU REALLY ENJOY THIS SITE AND WISH TO CONTINUE,THEN PLEASE WIGGLE UP TO THE BAR AND BUY A SUBSCRIPTION OR SOME SWAG FROM THE MILNET.CA STORE OR IF YOU WISH TO ADVERTISE PLEASE SEND MIKE SOME DETAILS.

Everybody has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Offline devil39

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 7,710
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 545
  • Ex-Army Guy
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2004, 10:16:20 »
Kirkhill,

However unlike the Cold War and Kennan's grand strategy of "Containment", I don't think this current war is going to be merely about containment and meeting the enemy encroachment wherever its ugly head pops up around the world.  

This is going to be about selectively, over time, taking out regimes that do not follow any civilized and acceptable rule set.  

Check out Thomas Barnett's articles I have posted.   He most recently worked in the Sec Def's office on Tranformation.     His book "The Pentagon's New Map"   is a very interesting and seductive postulation of a new grand strategy for the US.   A good companion book would be Niall Ferguson's "Colossus- The Price of America's Empire".



Barnett links

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/pentagonsnewmap.htm

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/esquire2004.htm

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives/000711.html



Norman Podhoretz on parallells between the Truman doctrine/Kennans Containment Strategy and the new "Bush Doctrine"

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/A11802017_1.pdf



Niall Ferguson:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0406.wallace-wells.html



Offline pbi

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 32,680
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 3,641
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2004, 10:42:36 »
Hi Devil. Good to see you on here. More stuff to read!!! Can't keep up as it is!!

Cheers
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline devil39

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 7,710
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 545
  • Ex-Army Guy
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2004, 12:39:05 »
pbi,

As you well know, one of the fringe benefits of a tour is that there is nothing else to do but work and catch up on your reading.

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2004, 13:40:06 »
Hi devil39,

I was beginning to think I had spouted so much bafflegab as to be completely unintelligible.   Thanks for throwing me a lifeline. ;)

Also thanks for the references, I appreciate the recommendations, I was just about to pick up Barnett last week, guess I'll have to dig into my pockets now after all.

Just a point of clarification, I was making a case for Isolation as opposed to Containment, in the same sense that IIRC a shepherd works his flock to isolate a particular sheep.   An essentially random pass of the dogs through the flock, followed by a determination that the target in question is not in one group but is in the other.   The passes continue, reducing the size  of the mini-flock the target can hide in, until the target is isolated.   At that time the target can be dealt with.

You are right, the Cold War analogy is not exact, because as you say the end-game was essentially about Containment.   This was because neither side could afford the many and varied costs associated with concluding the match.   Eventually the game played out as a Stalemate with one side conceding because they could no longer afford to play.

I think the difference here is, that unlike the USSR/Warsaw Pact, which with the experience of centuries of empire building by the Russians, which had a large population with internal lines of communication, a degree of ideological cohesiveness and a massive resource and industrial base to exploit,   the modern Emirs of the Terrorists of the Salafis of the Wahabis of the Sunnis of the Muslims are a pretty disparate group.   Therefore they are ripe for picking off individually.  

The same goes for the failed states out there.   The leaders of those states by and large are out for personal gain.   They don't do alliances well, they can't trust anybody because they no nobody trusts them.   As well they are geographically isolated in countries that often they can't control themselves because the terrain is too harsh to allow ready communication.

So to summarize again, what I was thinking was I might be seeing a strategy for dealing with these people of Isolating them from untrustworthy allies and populations that endure them but don't actively support them except under coercion, setting them up for the direct application of pressure.

The pressure could come from coercion - put forces into the wild spaces in their backyards or cut off their revenues and access to western universities, from bribery - guarantee them contracts in return for good behaviour (eg a word of support, donations to the cause....) or direct action (remove them from power, benignly or otherwise).  

The methodology is not new, in fact the stated goals are not new as a review of Fergusson's Empire will show - improving the lot of the rest of the world in a search for lasting peace (make everybody happy and there will be no wars - unfortunately we have to wait for the second coming for that).   It's just the latest attempt.

It has as good a chance as succeeding as all the others have.     It will likely bring improving changes to someplaces for a generation or two,   someplaces longer, someplaces it will fail. Someplaces it will probably fail disastrously or be envied and there will be the seeds for the next change.

To me it seems as natural   a cycle as breathing.   Peace, Order and Good Governance - Challenge at the fringes from the disadvantaged and the envious - Empire - Overstretch - Disorder - Reorder - Peace, Order and Good Governance.

It is a cycle as old as forever.   Just because we keep repeating ourselves doesn't mean that it is a futile endeavour to keep trying to impose POGG.   Its just like weeding the garden or polishing boots.   The weeds grow back, the boots get dirty ..... pull the next batch of weeds, polish the boots again.
This time round its the Yanks turn to weed and polish.   Those that want them to succeed would be well advised to assist.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040911/COTHAKUR11/TPComment

This article was in today's Globe and Mail, it is by Ramesh Thukra, an Indian, Rector at the Tokyo UN University.

I thought this paragraph was revealing.


Quote
They came to deliver us from local tyrants and stayed to rule as foreign despots. In the name of enlightenment, they defiled our lands, plundered our resources and expanded their empires. Some, like the rapacious Belgians in Congo, left only ruin, devastation and chaos whose dark shadows continue to blight. Others, like the British in India, left behind ideas, ideals and structures of good governance and the infrastructure of development alongside memories of national humiliation.


While most lefties tend to see Imperialism in "Belgian" terms, many conservatives, myself amongst them tend to see it in "British" terms.   What I found most interesting was the line
Quote
the British in India, left behind ideas, ideals and structures of good governance and the infrastructure of development alongside memories of national humiliation
.

Why the humiliation?   Because it can undermine a man, or woman, to be helped - to realize that they were not capable of getting the job done themselves, especially when it involves strangers from far away places.

No end in sight, but it has to be done, keep polishing........

Gawd that's depressing.



Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2004, 14:54:43 »
By the way devil, just read Wells'review of Ferguson.

Suffice to say, I am a fan of Ferguson and find Wells' characterizations somewhat hyperbolic.   Empire requiring slaughter, rape, pillage and general doses of nastiness.... if that were true then the Belgian empire would have outlasted the Brits and their "liberal" empire.

POGG requires effort.   Empire is the application of POGG over an ever increasing geographic territory, and then large amounts of maintenance.   Eventually the Empire runs out of funds, bodies or interest and it collapses.   And apparently precious little thanks.....

On the other hand

I feel that Revolutions, which are the overthrow of the established order and the ultimate demise of POGG going wrong, are products not of the masses but of the people in the board room aspiring to the top chair.  

Strangely when the Brits went into Basra many of the locals called them "Uncle" (in some cases it may have been true rather than an honorific) because, despite the various rebellions many of the underclasses had fonder memories of the Brits than their subsequent indigent rulers.   I have heard similar sentiments expressed by former "colonials" currently residing in Canada.   In fact for some the ultimate problem they had with the Brits was not that they "invaded", but that they left.

Wells doesn't quite see things that way.

Having said all of the above, I think that Empire as a concept is a neutral concept.   In execution it can be positive, benign or disastrous, but it always takes work.   And as everybody knows, work is tiring and often unrewarding and unappreciated.

If one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter, one man's Empire is another man's Government.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2004, 14:59:40 by Kirkhill »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline devil39

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 7,710
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 545
  • Ex-Army Guy
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2004, 16:43:07 »
Kirkhill,

I would agree that Empire should be viewed as a neutral concept with the potential to be positive or negative.   Ferguson argues that the US should admit their "Empire" and concentrate on executing it as a positive force.   He argues that in order for America to be a positive force they will have to stay the course where they intervene.   Japan, Germany, Puerto Rico and Hawaii are positive examples where the US has stayed the course.   Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and the Phillippines are examples of the US attention deficit disorder towards Empire and the consequent inability of those countries to prosper, or at least to achieve their full potential.

Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.   Economic deficit.   The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.   Manpower deficit.   The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones.  
 
3.   Attention deficit.   He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction   of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would think that the US should be able to continue to intervene internationally when required, provided the long term benefits of intervention are realized through the long term commitment toward regeneration.  



Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2004, 20:34:32 »
Quote
Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.  Economic deficit.  The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.  Manpower deficit.  The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones. 

3.  Attention deficit.  He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction  of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would think that the US should be able to continue to intervene internationally when required, provided the long term benefits of intervention are realized through the long term commitment toward regeneration. 


devil39, sorry it took so long to get back to this topic - been giving it some thought (just as well you can't smell smoke on these things).

Of the three deficits I was trying to figure out which one I thought was most important, economic, manpower or attention.  I couldn't.  They are all intertwined. 

No money. Can't afford to hire Americans to fight overseas. Americans die the sacrifice makes people want to get out of there - Attention deficit essentially - reward not worth the sacrifice.

Then it occured to me that maybe the two of us Ferguson and myself, can't speak for you, are seeing it wrong.  Maybe we are looking at a Public Empire rather than a Private Empire.

The British Empire that I most commonly associate with is the Late Victorian, Edwardian Empire that finally died out in the 1960's - characterized by military looking civil servants, the District Commissioner Wallah in shorts, knee-socks, solar topee and Sam Browne belt. An employee of the state running a department in a vast Crown Corporation.  Supplying Peace Order and Good Government and filling the coffers of Her Majesty's Government.

But if the Americans have an Empire, and I stipulate they do, their Empire doesn't look anything like the British Empire.  No government chappies in pith helmets lounging at Raffles.  But if they don't have the government chap, what is his counterpart?  I think the counterpart is the Harvard educated consultant with an MBA.

I think that the American Empire is a Private, for Profit Corporation rather than a Crown Corporation.  If it has a British analogy it is the British Empire before the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857.  That was when the Reformers, with the best interests of the natives at heart, took over the Empire from the various private corporations that were running it.

If we look at Iraq in that sense what do we see.

Suppose the following:

Step one - spend as few american dollars on manpower as possible, hire local soldiers and police with Americans as Stiffeners and Trainers (think East India Company, Skinners Horse, Gurkhas and the Indian Army).  So far a very British solution.

Step two, and this is the American solution, rather than sending out civil servants on the US government payroll, send out consultants to be paid by the Iraqis.  This has the added benefit of not just reducing the draw on American coffers but actually swelling them as Iraqis pay Americans.  Making headway on deficit number one, the economic deficit.

Step three - encourage Americans to do business in Iraq. 

Now some will argue that the security climate in Iraq doesn't allow for investment.  If you are thinking in terms of investment bankers and Wall Street you would be right.  But there is another kind of American - the kind that Sheila Copps sees in her nightmares.  The kind I had a lot of experience with in the fishing industry in Alaska.

These essentially are the cowboys and the gamblers.  People that will take any risk if there is a prospect of a dollar at the bottom.  Risk being capsized on an iced-up crabber in the Bering in return for $100,000 paychech for 4 weeks of hard work and sleepless nights? No problem.  Risk being shot or blown up for a similar paycheque driving truck, putting up cell towers, repairing oil wells, running construction companies?  They are queueing up.  The prospect of low taxes, few lawmen, no speed limits, SUVs and your own personal sidearm do not constitute deterrents.

They may not be John Kerry's, or Jacques Chirac's, cup of tea but they represent a well known side of America.  And when the go they take with them Hollywood and Britney Spears, Coca Cola and Budweiser, Levis and Nikes,  and they also take with them an awful lot more egalitarian view of the world than the locals have, even if a good chunk of them could be fairly described by the PC set as racists and chauvinists.

So looking at the three deficits again, starting with the bottom first,

Solve the attention deficit by getting their attention - show them how they can make a dollar

Solve the manpower problem by keeping the government out of it , privatize commercial enterprises and nationalize security

Solve the economic deficit by decreasing government expenditures and increasing revenues by selling what you know best, for the Americans that is "knowledge".


The American Empire got this far on the backs of Coca-Cola and Hollywood, perhaps they, Morgan-Stanley and Blackwater can take them on from here.

Oh by the way getting back onto the track of this thread, it seems while the Syrians are still talking a good game for there domestic population, there seems to be a move to start back-pedalling:

http://washingtontimes.com/commentary/20040923-084644-8505r.htm
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline devil39

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 7,710
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 545
  • Ex-Army Guy
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2004, 23:35:32 »
Kirkhill,

With respect to the private/economic empire, it has been argued and likely is a fact of life.   In the long run, I don't believe that there is the strength of character and/or incentive to make the contracted consultant stay the course when absolutely required.   Nor the promise to support him militarily when absolutely required.   This is a feasible course of action however, and may in the long run lead to a more institutional type of empire in a more acceptable, gradual nature.

From a military perspective, it will be harder and harder each year to recreate the imperial force that commanded respect in the height of the British Empire.   That kind of discipline cannot be imposed upon less willing subjects in this day and age.   Todays "stiffeners" must come with PGMs, Javelins and the "Deus ex machina" that only the US Military can provide.   This is possible, and the early campaign in Afghanistan provided a very good example of how money and modern munitions could motivate the friendlies and dissuade the bad guys.   This will only go so far however as the operation in Tora Bora has been suggested to prove.

The British Empire was primarily and initially about commerce, the real management came afterward as a sense of duty and responsibility.

Robert D. Kaplan's "The Man Who Would Be Khan", and "Supremacy By Stealth" are good depictions of where the US might find its bureaucrats, governors and managers, perhaps todays equivalents of the colonial administrator.   Kaplan suggests that it is the US Miliitary that will provide this class of committed, well educated and multi-talented individuals.   Individuals who accept deployment as a cost of doing business and are satisfied with promotion, an elevated social status externally, and the equivalent of the OBE to hang from their black tie at the end of their days.




Offline PPCLI Guy

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 124,975
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 4,785
  • It's all good
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2004, 23:40:43 »
Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.  Economic deficit.  The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.  Manpower deficit.  The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones. 

3.  Attention deficit.  He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction  of Iraq and Afghanistan.


And of course the neoliberal would add a moral deficit.
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

Karl von Clausewitz

Offline devil39

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 7,710
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 545
  • Ex-Army Guy
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2004, 00:06:47 »
Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.   Economic deficit.   The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.   Manpower deficit.   The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones.  

3.   Attention deficit.   He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction   of Iraq and Afghanistan.


And of course the neoliberal would add a moral deficit.

Of course.  

But you and I have frequently agreed to disagree on most subjects of this nature.

The US moral deficit is considerably less prevalent in my opinion than that of most, if not all, nations in history who have wielded the sort of power that the US currently is capable of.   I believe that history will confirm this eventually, perhaps long after you or I are capable of lucid comment (you will succumb before me, therefore I should likely have the last word!).   :   )

Offline PPCLI Guy

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 124,975
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 4,785
  • It's all good
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2004, 00:25:06 »


Of course.  

But you and I have frequently agreed to disagree on most subjects of this nature.

I think that I would actually be dissapointed if we ever did agree.

Quote
The US moral deficit is considerably less prevalent in my opinion than that of most, if not all, nations in history who have wielded the sort of power that the US currently is capable of.   I believe that history will confirm this eventually, perhaps long after you or I are capable of lucid comment (you will succumb before me, therefore I should likely have the last word!).   :   )

Fair enough.   My observation was more Caligula-esque than Bush-esque.   I was drawing a parallel, rather than siding with the neo-liberals.

As to our respective capacities for lucid comment - of course I will succumb before you.   I have been lucid for many more years than you...including most of the last 15. :)
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

Karl von Clausewitz

Offline Acorn

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 770
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 852
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2004, 02:07:59 »
So, I have to ask: does the existence of "neo-conservatives" require the creation of "neo-liberals?"

Acorn
"Liberal societies cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us." - Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil

Offline Acorn

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 770
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 852
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2004, 02:11:53 »
And to bring things back to Syria:

My take is that the vast majority of current commentators on Syria haven't a clue. But maybe my opinion is clouded by many years of physical experience in the region.

Acorn
"Liberal societies cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us." - Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil

Offline PPCLI Guy

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 124,975
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 4,785
  • It's all good
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2004, 08:40:39 »
So, I have to ask: does the existence of "neo-conservatives" require the creation of "neo-liberals?"
Acorn

From Duncans World Politics in the 21st Century:

Neoliberalism:   A philosophical position that argues that progress in international relations can only be achieved through international cooperation.   Cooperation is a dynamic rather than a static process.   By focusing on understanding the dynamics of the web of relationships driving the international system, states and other international actors can effectively use the international institutions spawned by the system to promote peace and cooperation

As I understand it, in the Post WWII era, the debate between the two main schools of thought in International Relations, Realism and Idealism spawned neoliberalism.   Try this link:

http://www.globalpolicy.org/globaliz/econ/histneol.htm
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

Karl von Clausewitz

Offline Bert

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 1,395
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 804
  • Military
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2004, 12:36:39 »
In light of Devil39's posts, here is article on the "US Empire" from another
point of view.


The American Empire

ww.stratfor.com
19 March, 2003

Al Qaedas goal always has been to unify the Islamic world under an Islamic government
to create, in effect, an Islamic empire that is ready to both protect the interests of the
Islamic world and to expand Islamic influence. It is doubtful that al Qaeda will achieve this
goal. Indeed, it is Stratfor?s view that al Qaeda?s actions will, contrary to its intentions or
 expectations, generate the exact opposite effect -- the creation of an American empire.

In a sense, the American empire already was created by the nearly simultaneous fall of
the Soviet Union and the Japanese economy. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the
United States became the only power capable of projecting military force globally.
With the crash of Japan?s economy and the extraordinary expansion of the American
economy in the 1990s, the United States also became the dominant global economic
power, the primary source of capital and innovation. These two forces combined to give
the United States overwhelming political power and with that came the ability to shape
the international order as it wished.

American power did not match the American appetite for power. The U.S. did not
perceive itself as having major global interests and its economy was less dependent
on either imports or exports than were those of other major powers. Nevertheless,
the United States had an interest in maintaining the stability of the international
economic order. In general, this meant maintaining and expanding market capitalism
in other countries and developing an international free trade regime with the inevitable
protectionist aspects that domestic American politics had come to require.

On another level, the United States, no longer riveted by any serious threats to its
national security, had the luxury to focus on the moral character of regimes. It
intervened in Somalia to end appalling hunger; in Haiti to put a stop to a brutal
and repressive regime; in Bosnia and Kosovo to limit Serbian excesses. All of these
were elective operations. The United States did not undertake these missions
because it had any overriding interests at stake, but because it had a massive
surplus in politico-military power and could afford to indulge. When Somalia proved
more complex and painful than the United States was prepared to endure, it
withdrew. When the Haitian operation failed to provide the promised blessings,
the government changed its focus.

The central reality of the 1990s was this: while the United States had the ability
to impose a global order, it clearly did not need one and the cost of imposing
one outstripped any benefit that the United States might derive from it. Although
the U.S. was clearly the world?s leader in every sense, and even thought of itself as
the leader, it did not wish to take on the disciplines of leadership or assume the
cost of forming a global order. Leadership includes developing coherent principles
for governing the international system, deploying the power to impose that system
and the willingness to create appropriate institutions with which to govern.

The lack of American appetite for power in the 1990s resulted in a subsequent lack
of any predictable, coherent behavior in the international system. Instead, Washington's
principles were vague, its political and military power was diffuse and the institutions
it chose to operate through (namely the United Nations and NATO) were both
relics of the Cold War and were fundamentally unsuited to the tasks at hand.

Nothing is more dangerous than power without appetite or fear. Appetite and fear
focus power, make it predictable and make it possible for other nations to craft
policies that accommodate, avoid or resist that power. Where there is neither
appetite nor fear, power is unfocused and therefore inherently unpredictable.
That unpredictability was the mark of U.S. policy between the fall of the Berlin Wall
and Sept. 11.

For most of the rest of the world, the 1990s was like living with a huge gorilla whose
intentions were generally good if somewhat addled. It was impossible to predict what
the gorilla might become interested in next, what it might do and the consequences
of its actions. For other nations, the United States potentially could be the solution
to their problems, but, if unfocused, also could be dangerous.

Other countries therefore had two predominant goals. One was to try to take
advantage of a relationship with the United States. The other was to try to form
coalitions large enough to focus the U.S. or at least render it predictable to some
degree. The latter was difficult. Working with the United States was more profitable
than resisting it. Thus every time a coalition started to form, the U.S. government
would shift its policy slightly, perhaps seducing one of the potential coalition members,
and the effort would collapse.

The rest of the world did not find this situation amusing. U.S. power and indifference
posed a threat to their national interest. The problem did not derive from any defect
 in the American character, but from geography and power. The United States was
physically secure from the rest of the world and so powerful and prosperous that it
needed little from that world. American self-sufficiency and the power to secure what
little it needed collided with the very different experience of the rest of the world.

Nowhere was this clearer than in Somalia. The United States, under former President
George Bush, intervened for humanitarian reasons, stayed to try to build a nation,
then pulled out when the nationals resisted. From the American point of view, this
was a humanitarian mission that just didn?t work out.

From the standpoint of the Islamic world -- and particularly that of al Qaedas
founders -- this was an example of the random and unpredictable nature of U.S.
foreign policy, coupled with a lack of moral fiber. Washington?s actions may have
been well intended, but were perceived as an unwarranted, imperial intervention.
Worse, the intervention was perceived as an imperial move by a nation with no
appetite for empire.

Somalia led directly to Sept. 11. Al Qaeda was part of the international community
that found U.S. behavior erratic, unpredictable and ultimately weak. Al Qaedas
goal -- building an Islamic empire -- required that it challenge the U.S. and
demonstrate that the United States was both inherently weak due to moral
corruption and that it would be incapable of destroying al Qaeda. For al Qaeda,
challenging the United States would change the psychology of the Islamic world,
 thereby undermining the perceived power of the United States.

Sept. 11 redefined the world for the United States. It turned the world from a
vaguely irrelevant, generally harmless place in which there were economic
opportunities and the chance to do good deeds into one that was deadly. It also
created a focus for U.S. power that changed the dynamic of the entire
international system. Prior to Sept. 11, the United States had only a vague interest
in the international system; after the attacks this international system -- and the
destruction of al Qaeda, to be precise -- became an obsession.

The problem for the United States, however, is that destroying al Qaeda is not a
straightforward action. The group has dispersed itself globally, which forces the
United States to follow suit. Prior to Sept. 11, the United States completely
dominated the world?s oceans and space. This allowed it to go anywhere and see
everything, but its ground forces were deployed fairly randomly. For example,
thousands of troops were still deployed in Germany, more from habit than from need.
The U.S. presence in Eurasia was essentially without a mission and not particularly deep.

Over the past 10 months, the United States has not only dispersed its forces
throughout Eurasia and the surrounding islands, but also has moved deeply into
the governments, intelligence agencies and security apparatus of many of these
countries. U.S. forces have been deployed, in small numbers, to areas ranging
from Europe and Georgia to the "stans" and the Philippines. More important, in
many of these countries small numbers of U.S. forces are "advising" (i.e. commanding)
native forces while U.S. advisors monitor and influence decisions from the these countries?
Ministries.

Sept. 11 created an unintended momentum in U.S. foreign policy that has led
directly to empire-building. Empires are not created by salivating monsters
seeking power. Such empires usually fail. The Romans did not intend to build an
empire, but each step they took logically led to the next and in due course
they had an empire. In turn, being an empire profoundly changed their institutions
and their self-definition. Aside from a deep belief in their own virtue, becoming an
empire was not an intention but an outcome.

The United States does not intend to become an empire. Its birth was the first
great anti-imperial exercise. It certainly has little economic need for empire because,
like the British, it can trade for what it needs. But the logic of empire does not
consist of avarice nearly as much as fear. The Romans? first impulse to empire was
defensive. So, too, the American impulse is entirely defensive. The United States
is not trying to build an empire: It simply wants to stop al Qaeda. However, to do
so is to follow the classic imperial process.

Driven by the need to defeat al Qaeda, American forces are deploying to scores
of countries around the world -- sometimes overtly, sometimes secretly;
sometimes in uniform and sometimes as secret agents. In all of these countries,
the United States is engaged in reshaping domestic policies. Al Qaeda cannot be
rooted out unless the social fabric of these countries can be managed.

Few will dare resist. The United States is enormously powerful and has been
transformed from a vaguely disinterested gorilla into a brutally focused and deadly
viper, ready to strike anywhere. Given U.S. power and the American mood, few
nations are prepared to risk U.S. displeasure by refusing to cooperate in the fight
against al Qaeda. Indeed, many see it as a chance to profit from collaboration with
Washington.

In practice this means that, in the course of defeating al Qaeda the United States
is becoming an integral part of the domestic policy process and implementation in
virtually all countries around the globe. Those that resist are potential targets for
 American attack. This was an inevitable -- but unintended  consequence of the
attacks of Sept. 11.

The intention is to defeat al Qaeda; the means to do so is a global war against them.
This requires the United States to be present in a majority of countries, overseeing
processes that are part of a sovereign nations purview, therefore, in effect, usurping
its sovereignty. Since the war itself requires reconstructing social orders, the
American presence will have to intrude deeply into these societies. Since the war
against al Qaeda could take a generation, the U.S. will be there for a long time.

Most American policymakers would deny that this is their intention. All would be
 sincere, but the unintended consequence is the nature of politics. In this case,
the unintended consequence is empire. U.S. power, having met an obsessive
need, is moving throughout the world. Where it meets resistance, it has no
choice but to plan war. The United States can neither decline combat with al
Qaeda nor avoid the consequences of such combat.

The United States has been a democratic republic, an anti-imperial power. Now
it is an imperial power, not in the simplistic Leninist sense of seeking markets, but
in the classical sense of being unable to secure its safety without controlling
others. The paradox is that al Qaeda -- ultimately a very minor power -- is driving
the world's greatest nation toward this end.

The problem, of course, is that all of this is visible tactically to Americans. They
see the deployments into each country. They see the acceptance of advisors
 into ministries. They have come to expect cooperation by police in Yemen,
bases in Kyrgyzstan, information from Egypt and accommodation from Germans
or Russians. They expect it, but have not yet constructed a coherent picture
or named what they are getting into: empire. Empires begin not with rabid
manifestoes, but with short-term solutions leading only one way.

The dispersal we see today will last at least as long as the Cold War dispersals,
and will be even harder to abandon. There will be resistance to an American
empire, from great powers as well as small. There will be burdens to be borne
in holding this empire that cannot be abandoned. The American dilemma is that
it is better at winning an empire than explaining it or even admitting what has
happened.

The United States is taking control of countries throughout the world, bringing
benefits and making threats. But the United States has no theory of empire.
How can a democratic republic and an empire coincide? Once, this was an
interesting theoretical question. Now it is the burning -- but undiscussed --
question in American politics.

The issue is not whether this should happen. It is happening. The real issue,
apart from how all this plays out, is what effect it will have on the United States
as a whole. A global empire whose center is unsure of its identity, its purposes
 and its moral justification is an empire with a center that might not hold.
As the obvious becomes apparent, this will become the focus of a pressing
debate in the United States.

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2004, 15:29:50 »
Great post Bert. :salute:

Just as an interesting numbers exercise based on this article

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/article.cfm?Id=1645

I came to the following conclusions.

The US will create up to 48 Regular Force Units of Action, approximately 24 heavy and 24 light/medium (18 Light and 6 Medium?) yet to be taken

It will also create 34 Guard/Reserve Units of Action.

The Regs will deploy every three years

The Guard will deploy every six years.

Divisions will comprise about 4 UAs of mixed sources.

The intent is to sustain the deployment cycle indefinitely.

Based on these numbers the US could deploy as follows:

1 Corps in Iraq with

one Heavy division of 4 UAs - Heavy (Abrams and Bradleys)  to form a backbone and respond to conventional military threats
four Mixed divisions of 4 UAs comprising 1 UA-Heavy, 1 UA-Guard, 2 UA-Light to supply regional security and work with national forces.

If we assume 2000 bodies per UA, not including external support, keep in mind that UAs are supposed to deploys with a high degree of internal support, this results in a fighting force of 20 UAs or about 40,000 people.

In Reserve the US will still hold

16 UA-Heavy or  4 Heavy Divisions
16 UA-Light/Med or 4 Light Divisions
30 UA-Guard or almost 8 Guard Divisions.

They will not be short of capability to defend themselves or react to crises.  Willpower may be another matter......

As to the 40,000 F-Echelon Forces in Iraq, if we assume that each of the Mixed Regional Security Divisions requires its 3 non-Heavy UAs to support and train 3 similarly sized Iraqi Army/Facility Protection/Border Guard Units then we add 4x3x3x2000 72,000 Iraqis to the 40,000 Americans.  And if we further assume that each Iraqi Military/Paramilitary unit supports 3 similarly sized Police Units
then we generate a total force for stabilizing Iraq of 3x72,000 Iraqi police or 216,000 plus 72,000 Iraqi military/paramilitaries plus 40,000 American soldiers.  Total force = 328,000 bodies.  Roughly the type of numbers that Shinseki called for a year or two ago.  But it is largely a domestic, not a foreign force.

And it can be sustained indefinitely.

And at the same time the US still has forces in reserve to repeat the performance.

Leaves a fair amount of support for those Bud-drinking, dollar-driven cowboys I was referring to earlier.
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2004, 16:22:31 »
Quote
And to bring things back to Syria:

My take is that the vast majority of current commentators on Syria haven't a clue. But maybe my opinion is clouded by many years of physical experience in the region.

Acorn

I would be really interested to hear your understanding of the Syrian situation. :)

Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Chris Pook

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *
  • 176,560
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 11,495
  • Wha daur say Mass in ma lug!
Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2004, 20:52:52 »
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48704-2004Sep24.html?

Quote
Syria's Baathists Under Siege
Party Reformists Seek Reduced Size, Influence

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 25, 2004; Page A13

DAMASCUS, Syria -- As editor of the Baath Party newspaper, Mehdi Dakhlallah has risen to a position of rare power within the institution that has dominated most elements of public life here for more than four decades. Now the balding, rotund intellectual is trying to tear his party apart.

In sober editorials, Dakhlallah has argued that the party is too big, too meddlesome and too removed from its founding principles of social justice, socialist economics and Arab nationalism. The young people who are joining today, he laments, are drawn only by the promise of preferential treatment in university admissions and lucrative jobs in Syria's largely state-controlled economy. He wants the party to return to its ideological roots by becoming smaller, more democratic and, most controversial to his colleagues, less influential in government.

"The Baath Party is not going to change the world," said Dakhlallah, 57, who joined amid the revolutionary fervor of the late 1960s. "Right now we're fighting to separate the party from government. This is an essential step in changing and developing this country."

A year and a half after Iraq's Baath Party vanished with the U.S. invasion, Syria's branch is under siege from within its own ranks. Dakhlallah is among a vanguard of intellectuals trying to reduce the party's influence with the blessing of President Bashar Assad, who during four years in power has grown frustrated with the opposition many of its members are putting up to his plans for economic reform.

Since the revolution that brought it to power 41 years ago, the nearly 2 million-member party has grown into a parallel government, monitoring education, political and economic policy through a network of committees from the national to the village level. Assad is slowly dismantling the system of privileges the party has accumulated, allowing him to set the pace and extent of change at a time when Syria is in the cross hairs of the Bush administration's push to bring democratic reforms to the Middle East.

Assad, the party's titular head, has selected more than a quarter of his cabinet from outside party ranks since inheriting the presidency on the death of his father, Hafez Assad, four years ago. He is purging the Baath-dominated military of senior officers by enforcing for the first time regulations on mandatory retirement age, and he may push to remove the article of the Syrian constitution that guarantees his party "the leading role in society and in the state." At the same time, fewer young people are joining the party.

But as Assad, an ophthalmologist by training, works to remove the party as an obstacle to reform, he is also trying not to upset the political base that sustained his father for three decades. He is facing strong resistance from a group of septuagenarian holdovers from his father's administration and from provincial party leaders accustomed to influencing everything from teacher promotions to the price of vegetables in the market.

Those pushing hardest for reform within the party are primarily political ideologues, such as Dakhlallah, who do not hold posts with influence over state industry or the powerful intelligence services, where most of the opposition to change is coming from. A smaller party might be more amenable to Assad's economic reforms, and a new set of leaders could emerge from among those pushing hardest for change.

"Assad encouraged introspection within the party, and it is having a big conversation with itself that is not yet resolved," said Peter Ford, the British ambassador here. "But as of now you still can't ignore the party. You must work with it."

Hani Murtada, a soft-spoken pediatrician, is fighting the party from the outside at the president's direction. A year ago, Assad appointed Murtada minister of higher education, making him one of seven members of his 25-person cabinet who is not a party member.

Murtada was given control of a system comprising four public universities and 225,000 students but with a shortage of qualified teachers, classrooms and curricula. Since then, he has licensed Syria's first private universities, created e-learning programs in a country that still blocks certain Web sites, and dismantled the privileges extended to teachers and students who belong to the party. Soon, he said, "all 17 million people in this country will be treated the same."

In the past, 25 percent of university admissions went to party members whose test scores did not meet minimum standards, usually by only a few points. Murtada said he cut that to 10 percent this year and will eliminate it altogether for the next school year. A knowledge of English, he said, is a better ticket to promotion than party membership. He allows the party's education committees to comment on appointments but not to dictate them as in the past.

"Many look at the party now as an important symbol. But as something that controls the country, that is over," Murtada said in a recent interview. "The general vision of the country has changed completely in the last three years. They once thought the state should manage everything, and we have seen this is nonsense."

Assad, according to Syrian officials and Western diplomats, is increasingly concerned by the demographic challenge facing the country. Each year 300,000 young Syrians enter the labor market, while the economy grows at only 3 percent a year, not nearly fast enough to absorb the new job seekers.

So far the most notable economic change has been the recent licensing of three private banks, a step Assad proposed three years ago. Party leaders, many of whom have substantial stakes in the state-run banks and other government-controlled entities, resisted the move until party doctrine was amended to allow Assad to proceed.

Many opposing the changes are in their seventies; the president, a generation younger, is waiting them out. He is also enforcing mandatory retirement, commonly waived for powerful military officers in the past. Western diplomats here say several hundred party members in the officer corps will be out over the next eight months, including the directors of four intelligence services.

 
"The end result will be to get the Baath Party out of the government and, particularly, out of making economic policy," said Waddah Abdrabbo, editor of the Economist, an independent weekly newspaper. "These people know that change is coming. They can fight it for a year or two, but in the end they will not be able to do anything about it."

Damascus University was once fertile ground for party recruiting when Soviet-style socialism and Arab nationalism captured the imaginations of many students across the Middle East. Today a broader range of political opinion is reflected in its sunny courtyards.

Dima Bawadikji, 18, said she joined the party in high school because she believed "any party member would have an easy life." A freshman studying library science, Bawadikji was the only one among five children in her family who joined the party, which in high school meant special picnics and sports days for members.

Sitting next to her on the shady steps of the journalism building, Amer Hassan, a 24-year-old student of English literature, said he joined the party a decade ago even though he "didn't know anything about it." Only a few people from his high school class in the southern province of Daraa didn't join, and he said he feared that failing to do so would hinder his ability to travel abroad, which he hopes to do some day.

"This party has been around for more than 30 years, and it's done nothing for us," Hassan said. "This president is a good one, and I respect him. But he can do nothing against these people because they run everything."

On the streets of Daraa, 70 miles southeast of Damascus, Yasseen Damara's smoky waiting room fills with men in military uniform and in the red-checked kaffiyehs of Bedouin farmers. He is the province party boss, and he is a busy man.

His calendar is filled with the weddings and funerals of provincial notables, and he is in constant contact with the provincial governor, another party member, for consultations ranging from the status of medicine in the hospital to problems with the electricity grid. Assad, father and son, look down on him from his wall as he works through committee reports on youth, economics, politics and education.

If vegetable prices in the market are too high, a party member will tell the vendor they should come down. The education committee recommends teachers for promotion, though Damara insists ability is the deciding factor. Despite his post, he said, two of his children were recently denied admission to the highly competitive local nursing school.

The changes being proposed by the intellectuals in Damascus make little sense to Damara, 51, a beneficiary of the party for decades. Land reform that followed the 1963 Baath revolution quadrupled the size of his father's tiny wheat, barley and garbanzo fields in the village of Maarea, making the farm profitable enough to sustain his family of eight. He joined the party in high school and never left.

"The party is still close to its principles, even though some individual members have made mistakes," said Damara. "It will always be the leading party. Why? Because its goals will always be supported by the people."
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]