The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.
Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.
Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.
On Wednesday, August 21st, a chemical weapon was unleashed in the outskirts of Damascus. This is the second documented chemical weapons attack in Syria this year.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said three hospitals it supported in the Damascus area had treated about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms", of whom 355 had died.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no evidence yet that Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels.
The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.
Both the Syrian government and rebels have blamed each other for last Wednesday's attacks.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualllem said no country in the world would use "a weapon of ultimate destruction against its own people". He has said he rejects "utterly and completely" that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons.
The US, Britain and France claim that the chemical attacks were carried out by the Assad regime. The US has responded by moving warships off of the coast of Syria to strike if necessary.
Who was responsible for the chemical attacks? I think that a case could be made for either party; the Assad regime or the ‘Free Syria’ rebels. Who would stand to benefit the most by the chemical attack? Clearly, the rebels.
Both parties control vast amounts of chemical weapons. In fact, the rebels may have more access to chemical weapons than the Assad regime. Military sources report that, after three days of fierce fighting, Syrian rebel units earlier this year seized control of the small southwestern Syrian town of El Saphira. This site had significant military value because it held the Syrian army’s largest chemical weapons store.
The rebels have a history of deception and blame. Early in the Syrian revolution, the rebels wore Syrian military uniforms and then video taped themselves committing extreme acts of violence and cruelty against the Syrian civilians. One of the most prominent videos shows the uniformed rebels throwing civilians off of a 7 story building. This was done to gain support from both the Syrian people and from other nations.
The rebels also have had a history of exterminating all non-Sunni Muslims in regions that they have captured.
The Britain-based Observatory said it had obtained a photograph showing the execution of Alawite cleric Badr Ghazal by hardline Islamist Sunni rebels, highlighting the growing sectarian bloodshed of the 2-1/2-year conflict in Syria.
Also in July the video of the beheading of a Catholic priest, Father Franҫois Mourad, was posted on Youtube by the proud rebels who want to eliminate all Christians and non-Sunnis. According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency, the Syrian rebels are sacking churches and issuing threats that all Christians, Shiites and Alawites will be cleansed from rebel-held territory.
In November of 2012, the ‘Free- Syria’ rebels used dual car bombs to kill 44 and injure hundreds in Jaramana. Jaramana is a predominately Christian town near Damascus with strong loyalties to the Assad regime.
Within the US, Senator John McCain, John Kerry and President Obama have strongly sided with the Syrian rebels. And the rebels are anxious to get the US involved in the war effort. The stalemate in the civil war has shown a dramatic decline in the enthusiasm by the rebels. Something dramatic is needed to fire up the troops and draw the US into the conflict.
The Assad regime would like to keep the rest of the world out of the conflict and is actively working to cut the supply lines from Turkey to the rebels.
The reasons why the Free Syria rebels have the most to gain by using Chemical weapons:
- Draw the US into the conflict (US has strong sympathies with the rebels)
- Create chaos and destabilize the region
- Exterminate the non-Sunnis in a large scale attack
- Rally the ‘rebel’ troops
- The chemical weapons would most likely be blamed on the Assad regime
It appears that the rebels may have been successful in their goals. Secretary Kerry said, “There was no debate at the Saturday meeting that a military response is necessary.” Obama ordered up legal justifications for a military strike, should he order one, outside of the United Nations Security Council. That process is well underway, and particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," Kerry said. "It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and -- despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured -- it is undeniable."
Why does the US want to jump into the Syrian conflict? All of the US lawmakers that are in support of the war effort are also heavily supported by the military industrial complex. Also, the US has typically opposed dictatorships; Mubarak, Hussein, Qaddafi all fell as a result of US opposition. The other reason is political. After Obama gave his ‘red line’ speech, he needs to back it up with some action.
About 2 years ago, a Mid East Analyst, Guenther Meyer, stated that Syria would fall. The only question was when; not if. The ‘Free Syria’ rebels have too much backing; including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, US, Europe, Turkey and al Qaeda. All are providing arms, intelligence and political backing to the rebels. Assad is receiving support from Russia, China and Iran, but that support is not nearly to the same degree or as active as the support for the rebels.
Syria was targeted along with Egypt and Libya for revolution during the Arab Spring in which those three dictatorships were to be replaced by radical Islamist Sunni governments. But the pesky Assad regime and its supporters will not quit.
Any action by the US in this conflict is groundless. There is no prevailing national interest in this conflict. And US participation is sure to spark a wider conflict. I see no upside to an involvement in the Syrian conflict.
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