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message 1: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6171 comments I know this is a tricky topic, but I've often wondered if the actions of some terrorists are in any way justifiable or understandable if we were to look at things from their point of view. I'm not talking about general hatred of the Western world based on religious beliefs. I'm wondering if some of their actions could be justified based on what they see as unreasonable acts of violence against them. Don't kill the messenger, please :-)


message 2: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments I guess if they're trying to overthrow a restrictive regime, you couldn't blame people for resorting to desperate tactics. But their targets determine whether or not we can sympathize with them vs. demonize them. If they're sticking to military and government targets, that's one thing; but when they target civilians, children, anyone not associated with their "dictator," then their actions are inexcusable.


message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments J.J. wrote: "...their targets determine whether or not we can sympathize with them vs. demonize them...."

I think this is the prime distinction.
People might get confused, because terrorists often use noble slogans of "freedom", "justice", whatever and may even have a valid cause. But no cause justifies killing or targeting innocent people. No sympathy to someone taking out his/her rage on passersby, students in his/her previous school or innocent people in general, no matter what the source or degree of frustration, sorrow or pain the assailant bears. Sacrificing him/herself in the act of terror doesn't make it any better.


message 4: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin A good example of justifiable terrorism would be the various assassination attemps against Hitler, quite a few of them made using bombs that killed bystanders. A not so justifiable type of terrorist acts was the numerous bombs and grenade attacks committed by Colonel Lansdale (CIA) around South Vietnam before and during the Vietnam War, in an attempt to throw the blame on the Vietcong and render them unpopular (for a good pictorial of those acts by the CIA, I would strongly counsel readers to find and watch the movie 'THE QUIET AMERICAN', featuring Michael Caine, or read the book of the same title The Quiet American The Quiet American by Graham Greene ).


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments Part of the issue is actually defining terrorism. I agree with Nik that there is no justification for the car bomb or the suicide vest that is targeted at innocent civilians. However, war in some hands has now become highly technological, which means that either those without the technology have to bow down to those with it, or they have to resort to asymmetric warfare, which I suppose is just an extension of guerilla warfare. There is a tendency of those with the technology to assert that the other side are terrorists, and I am not quite sure how you separate them. Either way, civilians are now a target from both sides. The mess in Yemen is probably the ultimate consequence of neither side being "good guys". However, war is such that even those with "good intentions" following a "noble cause" will now inevitably kill civilians. That is the nature of what war has become. Maybe it always was thus.


message 6: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments I think it's important to preserve the distinction and court-martial your own military, if they deliberately target civilian population. I believe our armies aren't terrorists and they employ different standard, rules of engagement and bank of targets. Yes, mistakes happen, casualties happen and if not exposed by the media are in some cases being concealed, but there is a principally different approach between armies, such as - not targeting civilians, scrapping operations at the face of expected casualties among uninvolved, prosecuting their own, if went out of line, as opposed to terrorists - going deliberately for innocent people, them or their families getting praise, promise of religious award for martyrdom from clerics and financial support from their operators and sponsors.
The line shouldn't blur and it's important.


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments Nik, as usual the extremes are clear, but in the middle I think the lines blur a little. My judgment tends to be, is there a legitimate military objective intended when the action starts. Things can always go wrong, and even that definition runs into trouble. For example the fire bombing of cities like Hamburg; there probably were military targets there, but a huge number of civilians died, and everyone knew they would die before the exercise. In asymmetric warfare, it gets even murkier for the weaker side.


message 8: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6171 comments Are we agreed that we're justified in targeting ISIS and other extremist groups who pursue the destruction of non-Muslim countries in the West, even if civilians are collateral damage which, as Ian says, is the nature of war? In other words, are we the good guys, as we were in WWII?


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments Not convinced about the good guy part. If Bush had not invaded Iraq, there would be no ISIS. Had he gone into Afghanistan to catch bin Laden and focused on that and left the Taliban to themselves, much of the present problems there would go away because I am sure the average Muslim in the region would appreciate that he had to do something about 9/11. But we are where we are, and I think both sides think they are the good guys. I think the next question is what happens in Idlib? Do we want to kill a lot of civilians, or do we leave about 20,000 terrorists to regroup? Not a very good choice.


message 10: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin The question of Idlib is now even hotter and more relevant, as there is a real risk that Russians and Americans may well end up shooting at each other, the Russians in support of Assad's forces and the Americans protecting a few rebel groups they support. There is a real danger that one or both sides could overreact to any possible incident or exchange of fire and start a full-scale battle in and around Syria between American and Russian forces present in the region. With an American President as volatile and unpredictable as Donald Trump and with Vladimir Putin resolved to carve a niche for Russia in Syria and to not lose face, the situation is now quite explosive.

One scenario I fear is this: Russian warplanes conduct bombing missions in support of Assad's forces and accidentally bomb some American troops, or Americans shoot down one or more Russian planes that are perceived to be about to fire on them. Either or both sides then retaliate, with Russian ships off the Syrian coast launching cruise missiles aimed at the American base in Idlip and with American planes and ships in turn attacking those Russian ships or the airfields in Syria used by the Russian Air Force. From there, things could escalate very quickly out of control, with Israel possibly getting sucked in that fight against its better judgment if the Lebanese Hezbollah then launch attacks on Israel as a distraction.


message 11: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Michel wrote: "The question of Idlib is now even hotter and more relevant, as there is a real risk that Russians and Americans may well end up shooting at each other, the Russians in support of Assad's forces and..."

We've already seen Turkey a NATO ally, shoot down Russian jets. This resulted in Russia being a little more careful about where it flew its jets. This will be harder for all parties to avoid 3rd party incidents. More likely is a Syrian barrel bomb helicopter being shot down by a group supported by US (and other nations) special forces. There are also reports on BBC that the risk of a 'chemical' attack is believed to be growing. The US reaction to having its special forces attacked with chemical weapons could be significant.

The possibility of escalation is very high with targetting mistakes and close proximity of different groups adding to the mix. In the middle will be the civilian population either relocated from other Syrian areas or the original inhabitants. UN has expressed serious concern. Cool heads needed but sadly missing from the various protagonists. Assad seems determined to finish the war at any cost to his own population. ISIS and similar groups have no sense of humanity or any ability to negotiate. Putin has his own agenda. Who knows what Trump will do. Turkey who are more interested in preventing Kurdish activity then anything else. Then we have Iran and its vassals, Saudi, Israel and other bit players including UK. What a colossal mess.


message 12: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin A colossal mess it is indeed!


message 13: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments Ian wrote: "If Bush had not invaded Iraq, there would be no ISIS."

Not sure there is a strict causal connection. Maybe if he didn't go for Iraq, there would've been no Kuwait and, who knows, maybe a few more countries, as we all know that the appetite comes with the food. Unfortunately, the US wasn't successful in rebuilding Iraq though.

Ian wrote: "I think both sides think they are the good guys"

You surely, don't put US and ISIS on the same square, do you?


message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments Nik, I meant the second Bush, who actually invaded. By then Kuwait was safe, thanks to Bush 1. Those two situations were totally different, and Bush 1 stopped at the Iraqi border when he could well have continued, presumably because he recognised the problems of occupying Iraq.

Of course I don't put the US and ISIS on the same square, BUT ISIS are religious fanatics, straight Wahabbi. The statement relates to not what they are, but what they see themselves as. Have you ever met a religious fanatic that thinks they are evil, or can even consider for an instant that God may not be on their side?


message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments I think from Assad's point of view, besides the fact Syria should be one country, if he does nothing, the terrorists will regroup and they will not live peacefully. In other words, either he deals with them now, or in the future he will have to sustain a continual barrage of terror attacks. Iran is almost fanatically opposed to the Wahabbi philosophy, and leaving aside the fanaticism, I agree. The US is caught in a bad place because for some reason its hatred of Assad has it allied with the guys who are essentially the only players in the region that killed over 3000 Americans.

So we still have the problem, what to do with Idlib? I don't think anyone wants a civilian bloodbath, but equally I don't see that Assad can afford to leave 20,000 jihadists there, who are determined to continue their jihad, and have no intention of either living peacefully or letting the civilian shield out. Is there any approach that does not lead to a disaster? The nearest I can think of is that Saudi and Iran combine to resolve their religious differences and persuade both sides to live in peace. Talk about implausible strategies


message 16: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments Don't know how true it is, but some sources claim from all regiments fighting for Assad, Syrian army constitutes maybe 20-30 %, since Assad belongs to alawite minority. Others helping him are Shiite Iraqi militias - some independent, some under Iranian command, hizbollah and forces like that. Again don't know whether it's true, but if it is, should the minority prevail through wiping the majority out with the help of foreigners?


message 17: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments I heard a report, and again I don't know whether it is true, but Assad's army does contain a reasonable number of Sunnis. As for foreign support, tricky, but without it Syria would be part of the ISIS Caliphate and is that an improvement? Either way, the Sunnis have a large civilian popup;action is Syria still. Assad did have the virtue of running a secular government (he had to, being in the minority). The other factor is that Assad was a cruel and barbarous leader but the other side of question, Nik, is should the Saudis be busy arming Wahabbis is Syria? Most of the recovered weapons that ISIS soldiers have left behind are US made, especially things like Raytheon missiles, so where did they come from? ISIS certainly did not make them, and my guess is the Saudis.


message 18: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin This discussion keeps bringing us towards one point that should be resolved soon in order to put some order around the Middle East: the alliance between the USA and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the one country supporting and spreading the extreme version of Islam called Wahabism, which ISIS follows and tries to impose on others. The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. Much of the financial and weapons support ISIS got (like Bin Laden and Al Qaeda) came and still comes from Saudi Arabian rich financiers and members of the Royal Family. Saudi Arabia is one of the worst violators of human rights in the World and has a judicial system of punishment that can be only described as barbaric. Saudi Arabia is also one of the very worst countries in the World in terms of treatment of women and of religious minorities. Finally, Saudi Arabia is presently engaged in a war in Yemen that has seen many acts that qualify as war crimes and is knowingly causing widespread famine through a land and sea blockade. So, WHY IS THE USA STILL AN ALLY OF SAUDI ARABIA?

Two reasons come to mind, none of which can be said to be morally acceptable:
- The USA is supporting Saudi Arabia as a counter to the perceived threat from Iran. Would Iran really be a threat to the USA if past American administrations would not have meddled into Iranian affairs first? Iranian leaders have been demonized constantly by the USA, mostly for the right reasons, but the Iranian people should not be crushed at the same time as their leaders.
-The USA is unwilling to risk losing access to Saudi oil. Is keeping access to Saudi oil worth supporting a dictatorial regime that routinely crushes the same notions of liberty and human rights that are claimed to be parts of the foundations of the United States?

The potential threat from Iran notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia doesn't deserve the continued support of the USA or of other Western countries. Unfortunately, Canada is little better in this and the government is still refusing to cancel a huge 15 billion dollar contract with Saudi Arabia for a fleet of new armored vehicles built in Canada. That contract is in my opinion a dark stain on Canada's reputation as a peaceful nation. You shouldn't support employment at home by selling weapons to dictators who then use them to commit war crimes.


message 19: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments In answer to Michel's options, my guess is oil. It is not just access to it, although that is important, but also that the oil companies in the Saudi zone are largely US corporations. So more specifically, my answer is business.


message 20: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Philip wrote: "Michel wrote: "The question of Idlib is now even hotter and more relevant, as there is a real risk that Russians and Americans may well end up shooting at each other, the Russians in support of Ass..."

And We've already engaged Russia's "mercenaries." Let's just say it didn't go well, so it's baffling they'd be threatening another attack, expecting us not to defend ourselves...

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments There is a dispute over the accuracy of that article. It happened to the East of Deir ez-Zor, where some of Assad's troops plus some Russian mercenaries wanted to re-occupy the oilfield that is run by Conoco. One could say there is reasonable cause for Assad to want to get control of its oilfield, especially given that most of the oil seems to have been sold and the profits went into the coffers of ISIS. Jihadists from Raqqa also moved in that direction. The Syrian army dislodged them from around Deir ez-Zor and this small group moved east. From the point of view of terrain, it is open desert, with a little isolated scrub. That ground patrol had zero defence against air power, no missiles, and no place to take cover. What we had was the US air power defending either US business interests or jihadists, who had US soldiers at their side, for whatever reason. There is little or no public information exactly what was going on at these oil fields, or, for that matter, what is now. At that point, the Russians had very little air defence of their own, not expecting the US to do that. There is no guarantee the Russians will not defend themselves this time, and if the US shoots down Russian aircraft or fires missiles from ships, there is no guarantee the US won't lose ships.

J.J. when you say "it's baffling they'd be threatening another attack, expecting us not to defend ourselves" does this mean you are saying the US military intends to defend all the al Nusra, etc jihadists in Idlib? Is the US formally wanting them to prevail? If so, this has to be the oddest situation ever.


message 22: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments What I mean, it almost sounds like they're daring for our troops to be targets...I don't really know what the intentions are over there, but I'm saying if our troops are indeed targeted, I doubt they're just going to take it with an "oops, our bad. We were warned" attitude.


message 23: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments We have precedent for these types of clashes. Not directed perhaps but incidental.

Attacks on US 'advisors' during Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan.
Attacks on Russian 'advisors' in Iraq during the first Gulf War.
More recently there was the US Warning Russia about incoming attack(s) on alleged chemical weapon targets in Syria to avoid Russian casualties.
In Air operations there have been regular de-conflictions of potential targetting between US/UK/French etc and Russian forces and since the Turkish shooting down of Russian planes between Turkey and Russia.


message 24: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments Michel wrote: "...the alliance between the USA and Saudi Arabia..."

Compare SA and Iran, where the former is the biggest buyer of US weaponry and maintains friendly policies towards US, while the latter uses 'Death to America' as almost a state endorsed slogan and uses hostile, belligerent stance. That's the differentiating factor. 'Friendly' or 'hostile' always comes before the internal affairs


message 25: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16053 comments Philip wrote: "In Air operations there have been regular de-conflictions of potential targetting between US/UK/French etc and Russian forces..."

Yeah, as long as de-confliction procedures are applied and followed, I hope the risk is minimized and I believe neither US nor Russia would go 'all-in' because of Syria


message 26: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11776 comments I am sure the Russians will try to avoid US troops, but that raises the question,do they know where they are, and the second question, what is their objective in Idlib? If they were there to help escort civilians out, I am sure Russia would back off until that was achieved, and I am sure that Russia does not want to go all-in as Nik put it, but the problem arises, if US troops are somewhere where (a) Russia does not know they are there, or (b) they are embedded in Jihadists, what happens if they are attacked then? Either US air power comes to the "rescue" or it does not. If it does not, I assume Russia keeps bombing and as US casualties mount, that is politically unsustainable in Washington. If the US starts trying to knock out Russian warplanes, either Russia tries to defend itself or it does not. If it does not, that is politically unsustainable in Moscow, so assume they do. Now, how does this not get out of hand, and how can anyone control it.

As an aside, I have yet to hear of any practical solution to this, although I did see on the news that at least some civilian convoys are leaving Idlib, which is a slight sign of progress.


message 27: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Ian, you can be pretty sure that the Russians know precisely where the US troops are in Syria. The US forces have informed a number of times both Assad's government and Russian forces in Syria where they are located, with clear warnings of the limits not to cross.

Also, in your post #21, you say ' That ground patrol had zero defence against air power, no missiles, and no place to take cover.' Nice try to deform reality, Ian. That 'ground patrol' counted over 500 men (300 of which were killed, by the way) and had tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces with them. That's quite a large 'patrol', if I go by my military experience. That 'patrol' was also warned multiple times to stop and turn around, but kept advancing. As for lack of air defenses, Russian units of a size as small as a company of infantry (about 120 men) have a number of portable surface-to-air missiles with them as organic equipment. With such a large 'patrol' having tanks, APCs and artillery with them, then you can be assured that they had to have a number of SA-16 or better with them. However, the US Air Force has a number of I.R. jamming systems to counter such portable SAMs, so they probably proved ineffective in that case.


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