Who’s Solving Syria?

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 It is difficult to look across the ocean and see
what is happening in the Middle East and in Europe, because of the upheaval in
the Middle East, and even, in fact, because of the situations that pertain in
much of Africa. How will order ever be restored when nations are dissolving and
local political structures are inadequate to offer a stable life to indigenous

The parts of the world that have not fallen into
total disarray have learned from past experience that there are no simple
solutions. Redrawing borders, propping up seemingly malleable leaders
(dictators), training citizens, or even waging full-out war have not been
effective ways to intervene, even when human rights violations become
unbearably obvious and too brutal to tolerate.

Colonization was perhaps the most effective way to
control chaos and set a matrix of order over the disorder, but it comes at a
cost to human dignity that is no longer acceptable to modern sensibilities. We
are at a loss about how to proceed against someone like Assad in Syria. Here is
a leader so unenlightened that, in order to hold onto his power, he will do
anything to his own people. He is the cruel parent who sees the slightest
disapproval from his exploited children as an insurrection, a civil war. Rather
than offer some reforms he hauls out the troops, the apparatus of war, the
chemicals with which he asphyxiates his own people. He holds onto his power as
his nation disappears around him. His people go elsewhere in panic, demanding
that other nations offer them succor. Perhaps they do not realize that their
sheer numbers may swamp the economies they turn to for rescue.

Not only is their leader corrupt and obdurate (and
backed by the Soviet state) but the terrorist force ISIS (ISIL) is pinching
these beleaguered people from the opposite border. These Syrian people are
truly caught between a rock (Assad) and a hard place (the terrorists). I would
run also.

But is there really anywhere to run to? Can nations
put their own citizens’ order at risk by allowing too many refugees or migrants
in? Will they be able to hold them at bay if necessary? Will prosperous,
well-governed nations be swallowed up by the rush of dislocated people
desperate to find peace and a future for their children? It seems unusual for
people to migrate towards densely populated lands but that is likely to be the
new normal as chaos seems to reign everywhere else.

There is no simple set of feelings to reduce our own
confused allegiances to. We look on from America and we understand the plight
of overwhelmed European nations and we understand the plight of the Syrian

There are no simple solutions, either, it seems.
Assad is not about to be unseated, at least not without taking on Putin. That
is a fight that is best avoided because whatever the outcome, it doesn’t seem
like it would be a good one. We could find places to build refugee centers that
operate something like military bases (as I suggested in my post entitled We Need a Refugee Plan, 4/26/15), but
anyone I have mentioned this to just dismisses it, so it must be an unworkable

Meanwhile we wait for this distant tsunami to
eventually batter our shores. And we say to the world that we are fresh out of
solutions. We are using private charitable foundations to chip away at things
like women’s rights, hunger, poverty, schooling, entrepreneurship. These are
acts of everyday love and heroism and hope, but then we have the flood of that
huge migration of Syrian nationals and all those loving global attentions seem
like band aids on a world battered by powerful seas. My lament does not mean
that we should give up our grassroots efforts around the globe. But I do think
we need a plan (and I don’t mean just an American plan, although we probably
can’t use the UN because the right wing has demonized it), and we need a plan
now, or very close to now. Who is working on a plan? Anyone? 

It will be quite ironic if all our attempts to lift
up people around the globe end up pulling us all down into a new dark age. It
also seems all too possible.



By Nancy Brisson




The Political Expediency of Blaming Terrorism on Obama

I am so tired of listening to voices that blame
Obama for ISIS (and, in fact, blame him for escalating terrorism overall). The
rather twisted logic is that if Obama had left American troops in Iraq there
would be no ISIS. There is no proof that this conclusion is correct, and there
can be no proof. This is an opinion and a dangerous one, obviously useful to
some as political fodder and to others as a reason to send troops back to Iraq.

This latter group reasons that we need to take care
of ISIS while it is still in the process of forming its cruel Caliphate rather
than postponing our inevitable battle with ISIS until they have consolidated
their power and are more difficult (perhaps impossible) to dislodge and defeat.
It is clear that even experts on war are not totally
clear about this preemptive strategy. We had only very recently decided that we
are better off letting the Muslim world work from within to form coalitions
between various Islamic sects or factions. A common threat such as ISIS
represents would seem ideal as an impetus for cooperation.
Americans did not take well to the smaller American
fighting force that had to be redeployed for tour after tour. We liked Obama’s
promise to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. However it did not
take long at all for our relief to be exchanged for horror at the violence
which began to manifest in several Muslim nations. Our senses were outraged by
Assad’s activities in Syria, and from there the barbarity of it all only
escalated as we watched the primitive and very public atrocities dished out by
ISIS, an organization obviously focused on getting the world’s attention and
fomenting war.
How do we turn our backs on acts that we find
heinous; brutal acts which we find so odious to all in modern times that we
thought they had become nearly obsolete? Well, we aren’t doing very well ignoring
these barbarities performed deliberately to incite us. These terrorists
understand how to push the world’s buttons. It seems clear that we may not be
able to accept an escalation in atrocity forever, but we should use this time
to carefully consider our options.
Instead we all waffle daily with our emotions
swinging wildly along the whole scale from warmonger to peacenik and it doesn’t
matter who is doing the reacting. Military experts, media people, Congressmen
and women, and ordinary people find our advice to our President changing daily
as events unfold to incense us and then calmer moments give us more
Obama did not begin the Arab Spring – the Muslim
world probably was ready to awaken in these days regardless of anything America
did or didn’t do. If anything is to blame, blame cell phones and the internet.
Placing blame is not at all helpful and offers no assistance to instruct us about
how to go forward, unless you are one of the people who think time could be put
back in the bottle if we would only send troops back into Iraq.
Should we go in, should we stay out; should we join
the fray, meet these fighters who have declared themselves our enemies on their
own ground, or should we wait until they actually meet us on our ground? Are we
in middle of fighting about whether the future of the planet will be a Muslim
future, a Christian future, or a future that has made peace with religious
diversity; or is such a moment not a moment we will ever have to worry about?
If only we could trace the trajectory of each possible action into the future
to see how it would turn out?
I do know that this moment of upheaval and this
tipping point is too huge to blame on one man, even a man as powerful as the
American President. If voters buy into this latest GOP ploy delivered in their
usual repetitive style, then people must also buy that putting American troops
back into the Middle East is the way to go. Once we get in there this time it
may be almost impossible to get out until all the differences are untangled and
sectarian divisions are overcome or defused and that could take a really long
time. Muslim people may be able to find a way out of animosities that they have
nursed for centuries, but killing each other seems like a rather
counterproductive way to accomplish this.

We need really cool heads to make this decision and
all we have are madmen on one side and people whose emotions get exercised by
each act of inhumanity, and who then subside into a pleasant political amnesia
when the level of atrocity subsides. And sadly, we also have those who whip up
our empathy for others and try to turn it into political divisions here in
America because they are just really focused in a laser-sharp fashion on winning
our next election.
By Nancy Brisson

Love Peace: Prepare for War

No Time to Stand Down
I know that America must make it clear to the world that we can
defend ourselves. We must make it clear that we are in a merely tactical
withdrawal. Our military resources must not be allowed to get rusty or decline
in numbers or readiness. We must stay battle ready. We should even continue
with military innovation. The world is hardly at peace yet as we can see and we
have enemies, mostly foreign, perhaps a few domestic, who would delight in
catching us unprepared. Our allies must stay prepared to fight also. This is no
time to stand down.
New Kind of War
However, this is the time to stand back when we can, to
analyze, to accept that future wars in some ways may not look like the wars of
the past, although many of the same sad truths will apply. It is time to
regroup, to brainstorm, and find innovative ways to target each enemy with
tailor-made plans in the same way we now target certain cancers with
personalized drugs. We can’t afford to ignore our enemies; we don’t really want
to be isolationists who wake up one day to find themselves deprived of this Democracy
we treasure.
Can’t Waste Our Best Assets
Committing ourselves to send huge forces of our young men
and women off to war as America’s soldiers is not a strategy that will work. We don’t
have the human resources for this or the heart. 
Our people are too precious to us and we don’t have an enormous
population to waste. Our human resources are hardly endless. We have no “clone”
army. We have no robot soldiers. How do we fight well without expending large
numbers of our most valuable resource – our people? I think we fight exactly as
we are learning to fight now. “Designer” wars targeted to a particular enemy
are a good start, although our long distance tools are limited. We need to
rewrite those classic books on military strategy, to 2K reboot them, so to speak.
What We Stand to Gain and Lose
We may not love drones but for a while they are the
only nonhuman long distance resource we have outside of nukes which we
absolutely can’t use and chemicals, which we also can’t use. Collateral damage
is always a bad thing in a war. Wars are not supposed to kill civilians. They
are about deciding how those civilians will live after the war. If no civilians
survive, war is pointless, unless you are simply trying to depopulate the
planet and fortunately we aren’t there yet. I’m a civilian. I don’t want to be
killed by accident; therefore I don’t love drones that kill civilians anywhere.
I don’t love war either for that matter. We must use the new tools we have to
prevent our Democracy from being swallowed by a world of power-mad people who
hate freedom. We must not allow ourselves to be easily crushed by those who
would have us live according to religious beliefs and customs that are not our
own and who would deprive us of important rights. Women would especially be
deprived of freedoms that we hold very dear. Our brains would once again cry
out to be used and we would end up using them in petty competitions and
cruelties among ourselves.
Police, Use Military Gear to Defend Locals, Not Police
I do deplore the fact that our police departments own
equipment that is military in nature, but I only deplore it if they use it on
our own people to enforce laws that can be enforced (and have been enforced)
without turning our hometown police, our neighbors, into hostile strangers
hiding behind riot gear. We don’t want to escalate violence against each other.
We want to be trained to recognize a true enemy if it presents itself and we
want to be prepared to fight such an enemy anywhere in America. (I am trying to
get used to calling America the homeland, but it doesn’t sound quite right to
me yet.)
Flexible, Targeted, and Deadly
We need to have strategies that allow for flexibility,
for travelling light but being a deadly force regardless of the size. We need
ways to get into war zones, where the outcomes may affect us or our allies,
quickly and to get out quickly. We don’t have many of these technologies in our arsenal.
They may not even have been invented yet or we may not have decided yet whether
they are technologies we want to use. However, if we can design things as toys
for movies I am guessing we can eventually design real ones. Drones cannot be
the only robot or long distance tool we have and drones need to continue to be
refined until our enemies can be more exactly targeted.
The Paradox

I want peace. I have no faith that mankind has any gift
for peace and I still want it. Until the whole world wants it too, is dedicated
to it absolutely, I am a war monger who only wishes to make it clear that we
can and will defend ourselves. We will try in every way not to defend ourselves
with the frail flesh and blood of our fellow Americans. We have to try to
invent the most effective techniques we can find for fighting wars from a
distance. If our ways are effective enough maybe war will end; it will be too
deadly to fight wars and we can have peace. If we can invent the internet we
can do this. Meanwhile we must stay lean, mean and keep as much distance from
our enemies as humanly possible. We can hate war, in fact it is better if we
do, but we must know how and be prepared to fight. This is the paradox of the
world as we know it, the paradox that I hope we can someday put behind us forever.
By Nancy Brisson

Tipping the Balance Towards Oblivion


Part One: Quick
quiz:  Find a pen and some paper. Take one minute and list as many
wars as you remember.


Here’s my
list if you want to compare:

The War of the Roses

The Peloponnesian War

The Hundred Years War

The Boxer Rebellion

The American Revolution

The French Revolution

The Russian Revolution

The French and Indian War

The War of 1812

Custer’s Last Stand

World War I

World War II

The Spanish American War

The Crimean War

The Crusades

The Iraq War

The Afghanistan War

Desert Storm

The Civil War

The Arab Spring

The Boer War

The War in Bosnia

The Korean War (military action)

It is very,
very difficult to imagine a world with no wars. Peace and prosperity that
persists over time is not something we trust or believe in, although it is
definitely something we long for.

PartTwo: Make
a list of countries you thought would likely upset our hopes for a peaceful


Here’s my
list (in no particular order):



Israel and Palestine







(many African nations)

China (expansion in South China Sea)


North Korea


Unless you
are Tom Clancy (Command Authority) you probably would not have placed Russia on the list of nations
likely to be troubled and troubling until just last week.

As I have
heard people say on the internet and television, you may have felt that Putin’s
behavior has seemed somewhat pathological recently, arrogant one moment, pouty
the next. President Putin makes me (and others) nervous. I don’t know if he
makes me more nervous than Ted Cruz, but I can’t think of a cartoon character
to compare him to and, for me, that’s a bad sign.

Who would
have thought, given all the other nations where unrest seems ready to explode
into violence at each and every moment, that Russia would add to and trump all
the rest of the world’s burdens – not because of any horrors that were
perpetrated, but because of what this action portends for the future. We don’t
want another monster on the loose. We already have Assad who would rather
obliterate “his” country and its people than let go of the reins of government.
We already have the prison camp drawings that came out of North Korea recently.
Crimea went to Putin easily, but if he goes on to try to annex Ukraine will they
prove to be as agreeable (scared)?

I understand
that President Putin wants a sea port. It seems clear that the people of Crimea
do not mind rejoining Russia. Why did Putin, who I wanted to put in the ranks
of modern, enlightened leaders, have to resort to using troops to scare the
Crimean people? This seems to be a case where diplomacy would have worked. Yet Putin
did not even try it. With all those foreboding troops around it is really hard
to guess if the people of Crimea are truly happy to rejoin Russia.

Now we have
to add Russia to that long list of countries with political stresses that could
affect the entire direction of the world. It looked like we were headed, slowly
and rather explosively, towards that peace and prosperity we all long for, that
modern, civilized global community where we all get along and work together to
explore the enormous universe that surrounds us. Now this goal seems even
further away than it did last month or last year. It would be so easy to fall
backwards into a new Dark Age. Now we have a new and really giant nation, with
plenty of nukes, to add to that list of worrisome nations who could send us
spiraling backwards at any ragged moment. Can we figure out a way to take a
long, long vacation from war? It sure doesn’t look promising.

This is the
view from the cheap seats.

This blog
post is also available at http://brissioni.com/

By Nancy


Honor the Warriors

We can chart human history by our wars. Every nation has needed soldiers. Every empire has needed soldiers. Even minor chieftains have needed soldiers. Soldiers enforce power. Without the threat that the warriors represent, the next ambitious figure will change a society’s destiny in a drumbeat. So for centuries the world has used its warriors and sometimes celebrated them and sometimes ignored them and has learned that if you ignore your warriors you lose the respect of your society and your power will be in jeopardy. Societies must thank their soldiers and honor their families and it should be their honor to do so. In times like these when armies are large and finances are tight it is difficult to treat warriors and their families as well as we should. Societies have often postponed rewards to soldiers until more affluent conditions prevailed. Fortunately there are those who remind society to show appreciation for soldiers with things like parades and ceremonies and awards, but also in more tangible ways with things like housing and education and medical care and jobs. This is our Memorial Day, set aside to remember our fallen soldiers and thank our living soldiers for defending our nation and our way of life. Hopefully we will not begrudge them the more tangible rewards they were promised and which they deserve.
Meanwhile we all still yearn for a day when history will no longer be measured in wars. We continue to strive to find a way to organize our societies so that peace will bind us all together and war will become obsolete. Realistically, we can’t imagine how this will ever be possible.

FREEDOM – Tom Zart

In their new uniforms,
The young march off
Not knowing who shall return.
With a proud devotion,
They brandish their flag
Leaving loved ones to wonder and yearn.

May we all be buried
By all of our children
Is an ancient tribal prayer.
They’re so easy to lose
But so hard to forget;
Such a burden for a parent to bear.

Oh, the taste of victory
Shall soon be forgotten;
But, never that which was lost.
For those rows of white headstones
In peaceful green fields,
Make it easy to tally the cost.

America has survived all attempts to destroy
Knowing the cruelty of war,
And, we who remain
Must help keep her free
For those who can march no more!

Why Does Iran Act Like a “Hater”?

Iran is now providing us with the newest “Fear Factor” episode in the daily parade of aggressive world leaders who hate America and want to inflict pain on America. Iran wants nukes. We are not sure why Iran wants nukes, but we are sure that letting an aggressive nation who hates America develop nukes is probably not a good idea. (I am not even including Iran’s dysfunctional relationship with Israel in this discussion.)
Iran says they want nukes to use for peaceful purposes. They want to provide energy to the people of Iran. This is a laudable goal. Why would anyone need to be secretive about it? I can see that it might provoke anger when the world will not believe what you say, when they want to enter your country and poke around to see if you are being truthful.
But why are your borders closed in the first place? What are you doing in there that the world is not welcome to see? I know the culture of the 21st century can be invasive, as we are seeing in other Arab nations. I am guessing that you are trying to keep out these cultural influences so Iran can remain Iran. But in trying to hold off the world and stop progress Iran seems to us to be keeping its citizens in the prison of a time warp. It seems to us impossible, controlling, and artificial to hold the world out forever.
Is Iran like the “small dog” who barks a lot because s/he feels threatened or is Iran imperialistic? Does the nation want to be “top dog” and rule the world? This is what we worry about. We are not sure, based on the hostile rhetoric we hear, about what Iran’s true goals are. This is why we worry that Iran is developing nukes as weapons and not just for peaceful purposes.
Iranian leaders project hate, they project paranoia, and they project a chauvinism that often leads nations to attack other nations. They keep defying the world and taking it to the edge of war, as in their current threats to close the Straits of Hormuz. It may just be the protective stance of a beleaguered nation, or it may be a set-up to hostilities that involve more than an exchange of hateful words and threats. We want to like you Iran, but as things stand, we cannot know if your bite is worse than your bark.
The sad thing is that it is difficult to imagine any Iran scenario that does not eventually involve armed conflict. I hope we find another way to relate to Iran. Of course, we cannot really exclude Israel from any discussion about Iran because Israel is our BFF and Iran refuses to even admit their existence. Any solution that involves only Iranian-American relations is unacceptable. Any solution that involves Iranian-American-Israeli relations seems impossible. So far we have not come up with any ways to turn Iran from a “hater” into a friend.