A quick quality test for advice about Daesh

If anyone offers advice about Syria 2015, I suggest these simple tests:

  1. What advice did they give about Iraq 2003, and what do they think now about how that one worked out?
  2. Is there any reason to believe that they know anything about the subject?
  3. Does the advice make any kind of sense?

Let me apply these criteria to myself. in reverse order:

My advice, for what it’s worth, which is not much: Undecided on bombing in Syria. Before you kill a lot of bystanders and piss off a lot of the people that you eventually need to have on your side, it would be good to have a plan that shows that this will actually help any. Precedent is not good. Daesh oil sales, arms purchases, and sources of finance may be the best targets, and vulnerable to non-military attack.

I have no special knowledge of the subject.

I applauded the decision of Bush Sr. in 1991 not to march on Baghdad, not having any idea what the Alliance would do when it got there. I agreed with the American Chemical Society in 2002 that the evidence available for the claims of Iraqi WMD* (remember them?) was totally unsatisfactory, but that Saddam Hussein should be compelled to accept unfettered inspection. I completely opposed the decision to go to war after he had done exactly that, and quickly realised that the occupation was a disaster, but how great a disaster, in terms of the death toll in the Insurgency, subsequent internal breakdown, and the emergence of Daesh, I totally failed to foresee.

*There weren’t any, nor any short-term capacity to produce them.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on November 21, 2015, in Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Paul, am hacked off with WordPress for not recognising my password after submitting a lengthy rebuttal of your reservations about Syria. After trying to obtain another pw my script was lost! Can’t risk wasting more time going through WordPress!



  2. I am not sure that this is very scientific, but my assessment of the recent history is as follows. I hope that it shows that I have studied the science of human nature rather than the science of war or politics. It is inevitably simplistic.

    I assessed Sadam as a WMD in his own right. He had such power through other people. He had no safety catch or empathy mechanisms once he decided to lie and employed others to lie. The power stretched even after his death to disable the ability of his people to act in their own interests for themselves and their country. The biggest mistake after the war was to assume that the appointed Iraq leader would appoint a balanced cabinet.

    As far as legality is concerned, you can make as many laws as you like but unless there is a police enforcement you have wasted your time and money. America is the only viable agency of enforcement and it has not made a very sensitive police agency.

    The future? I see the whole thing as pushing us [Much too slowly] towards world government. Once established it’s first task should be to recruit an army and police force completely without national affiliations residing in a neutral territory and guided by the UN.


  1. Pingback: A quick quality test for advice about Daesh | Dissenting Radical

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