In case you thought you were cynical about the situation in Syria, here’s Gary Dolan (aka The War Nerd) at NSFWCorp:
Last week someone launched missiles with chemical warheads at El Ghouta, a Sunni suburb of Damascus. It’s still not clear how many people died, or what chemical agent killed them, but the obvious suspect is Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA), because El Ghouta is a Sunni district, a frontline area in the fight between the Alawite SAA and “The Syrian Opposition.” Which means, basically, the Sunni.
And then something surprising happened. People objected…
What this burst of outrage really shows is a much older, sleazier scenario: A small power, out of favor with the big players, crossing a “red line” that’s drawn by the technology you use to massacre the other tribe, not the fact that you’re massacring civilians.
There are three factors that determine how much artificial world outrage a massacre sets off. First, the obvious one: Who committed it? Second: What technology did they use to commit it? Third: Who were the victims?…
That’s where the “chemical weapons” aspect of the El Ghouta attack comes in. The SAA has been killing Sunni civilians in huge numbers, to the absolute best of its ability, for more than two years. And that hasn’t really bothered anyone except other Sunni Muslims, other members of the same extended family.
The reason we were all fine with those deaths is that they were carried out with the kind of weapons we like and trust: Aircraft and missiles. One constant for war news across my whole life is that nobody minds what you do as long as you do it from a fighter jet. It’s amazing. This isn’t as random as it might seem. Those jets are very, very expensive—not just to buy but to maintain, because they’re as fragile as racehorses. So only the big boys, the powers we consider legit, can use them. That’s absolution in advance for anything they do, above all because “opinion leaders” who spin the news know those jets will never be used against them….
Chemical weapons scare us more than SCUDs or 1950s Soviet aircraft, because they’re illegitimate weapons favored by illegitimate powers. It was the Germans who introduced them in WW I, for which the Anglo-American cartel never forgave them. Since they were banned by the big powers according to the Geneva rules, they’re like an illustration of that NRA tautology that “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” or in this case, “Now that us big legit people have outlawed chemical weapons, anybody who uses them must be a rotten outsider.”
The last factor in deciding whether we get outraged or not is: Who got massacred? This is an interesting case. Like I said, the world has watched with a cold, calm eye while Assad killed tens of thousands of Sunni Syrians. In some quarters, the view is that you just can’t kill too many militant Sunni…
… The point is so much simpler than anyone will face. It’s not about chemicals, or death tolls, or even Syria. It’s about reminding two factions in an enemy tribe that you’re still in charge, and you control their death rates even when they think it’s them killing each other.
Much more at the link (for the next 48 hours, unless you’re also a subscriber).