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Recently I have seen a gradual increase in calls for a ‘Libyan-style uprising’ in Syria - advocating sending in drones and cruise missiles and providing the undefined Syrian ‘opposition’ with weapons, money and military advisors.

There seems to be quite a few people who are either extremely ignorant of the realities, or amazingly callous in their pronouncements.

First, let’s look at population.

Libya’s population is about 6,500,000, and about half of the population lives in Libya’s five largest cities:

Tripoli - population ~1,250,000

Benghazi - population ~700,000

Misrata - population ~350,000

Bayda - population ~250,000

Zawiya - population ~200,000

Syria’s population is about 23,000,000, and a little less than half of the population lives in Syria’s five largest cities:

Damascus - population ~1,250,000 / metro population ~4,500,000

Aleppo - population ~2,500,000

Homs - population ~1,300,000 / metro population ~1,800,000

Latakia - population ~650,000 / metro population ~1,250,000

Hama - population ~700,000

Now, let’s look at how big these countries are.

Libya is 1,759,541 square kilometers (679,359 square miles) big, which is a little bigger than Alaska.

Almost all of Libya’s population lives spread out along Libya’s 1,770 kilometer (1,100 mile) long Mediterranean coast, an area of say about 180,000 square kilometers.

Syria is 185,180 square kilometers (71,479 square miles) big, which is about as big as Washington State (or North Dakota, or Oklahoma, or Missouri).

Almost all of Syria’s population lives in the western half (maybe third) of Syria, an area smaller than Indiana.

So there are about three and a half times as many people in Syria as there are in Libya. Living in an area which is about half the size of the area where most of the population of Libya lives.

In Libya about one percent of the population were killed or seriously wounded, about 60,000, and at least 12 percent of the population, about 800,000, fled the country during the bombing and fighting.

So let’s put aside the fact that Syria neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel; and that there are many, many times more soldiers, weapons, tanks and military aircraft in Syria than in Libya; and that Bashar al-Assad is supported by a large number of people in Syria; and that the Syrians are particularly sensitive about being bombed by other countries.

Let’s discuss a ‘Libyan-style uprising’ in Syria just by the numbers. The population density of Syria is much greater than that of Libya, and as a result the percentage of dead and wounded would most probably be higher, as would be the percentage of refugees.

But even if the percentages were the same, there would be about a quarter of a million dead and wounded in Syria and about three million refugees if there were a ‘Libyan-style uprising’ in Syria.

So by all means let’s do have a ‘Libyan-style uprising’ in Syria and you, you callous ignorant jerks who advocate such an event, can all watch it on TV from the comfort of your living rooms while congratulating yourselves for 'supporting freedom and democracy' in Syria.

Originally posted to InAntalya on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:29 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Guess I have been napping (5+ / 0-)

    because I haven't managed to catch any calls for a Libyan-style uprising.  These sorts of things should start internally and other countries only step in when serious human rights issues are at stake.

    #Occupy Wallstreet - Politicians will not support the movement until it is too big to fail.

    by Sychotic1 on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:37:57 AM PST

  •  Thanks for putting this in perspective for us (12+ / 0-)

    I've never seen you write this angrily before, so it's obvious how tired you are of callous fools preaching on matters of life and death, which they know nothing about.

    I hear you loud and clear.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:40:12 AM PST

  •  I don't advocate anything for Syria. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, wu ming

    Well, I think the rest of the world should cut them off, but beyond that it's up to the people unfortunate enough to live there.  If "the people want to execute the president," as the signs and slogans say, they're going to have to figure out how to do that.  They seem to be very brave and resourceful people so I'm optimistic for them.  I'm a little mystified by Assad, who could have saved himself and his country a lot of grief back in the spring with some very mild adaptations that would have kept comfortably him in power, like Bouteflika or Abdullah or Hassan.  I suspect he isn't really the one in power after all; rather, it's a clique that wouldn't survive any kind of reformism.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:42:01 AM PST

    •  he has the luxury of a military that is mostly (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, Brecht, Marie, poco, Terra Mystica

      composed of his fellow Alawites who really have no where to go if he should fall.  Independent estimates place the rebel army at no more than 1,000 to 25,000 men while the Syrian army numbers 500,000, not including the civilian "enforcement" cadres Assad can also flood the streets with

      •  the loyalty of the non-alawite members of the army (6+ / 0-)

        will determine a lot, as this grinds on.

        •  Numbers Don't Look Good Either (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A quick look at Syria's population shows it to be 21.9 million.  Of the population, about 12% are Alawite.  Likely no more than about 5% of the Alawite population can be in the Syrian army, which yields about 130K Alawite members of the Syrian military in all branches.  If the Syrian military totals about 500K, only one in four members of the Syrian military would be Alawite and considered reliable by the current regime.  Throw in the fact that the Alawites likely make  up most of the command staff and specialist services and the average Alawite officer on the line is commanding nine non-Alawite enlisted.  That's a lot of people who conceivably could just walk away with their weapons at some point, even if only sidearms, or, worse, "lose" them to friends and family.  Lots of guerrilla wars have gotten started with far less source of supply.  What happens when crates of heavier weapons start washing up on Syrian shores to be discovered by Syrian insurgents?  I can think of at least one power in the region who wouldn't mind stoking the fire just to watch the outcome.

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 08:48:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Why was the tip jar HR'd? (12+ / 0-)

    I haven't been following calls for a Syrian style uprising. But I see no reason to HR the tip jar.


  •  So, you oppose challenges to Assad's rule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, angry marmot

    or do you oppose only outside intervention?

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:44:59 AM PST

    •  I oppose outside intervention, specifically (13+ / 0-)

      military intervention.

      I am also concerned about whether or not sanctions will effect the general population, for example the abilty to get vital medicines, if they are not designed and implemented well.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:55:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So what do you think the international community.. (6+ / 0-)

        ...should be doing?

        I'm honestly curious here, because it seems to me that at least on some level, the international community needs to tell the Syrians who want their basic freedoms that we've got their backs. What international actions could weaken Assad's regime without punishing the people themselves?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:56:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The latest news, which I got yesterday (6+ / 0-)

          and am still working on confirming, is that there is a growing shortage of deisel and fuel oil, which the Syrians - the general population - blame on sanctions, and which is making it increasingly harder for people to farm, to transport their goods, and to heat their homes.

          If this is true, that sanctions are causing this shortage, this would seem to be impacting the general population more than the government.

          As to what 'actions could weaken Assad's regime without punishing the people themselves'. It doesn't seem to me that making it difficult for people to farm, to transport their goods, and to heat their homes this winter is one of them.

          Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

          by InAntalya on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 08:23:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  That is a concern, I agree, and it's a real (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        InAntalya, Brecht

        dilemma when despots get to hold their own people hostage.

        Armed action can kill.

        Sanctions can kill (ask the Iraqis).

        But, there are circumstances when doing nothing isn't an option either.

        Too bad more didn't follow Ben Ali's relatively graceful departure.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 08:08:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Financial Enablers (0+ / 0-)

          Rulers in countries like Syria almost always need to get whatever funds they're generating from their control out of their host country and into safe havens.  Somehow, the international community always seems powerless to stop this flow of funds, which allows the tyrants to ensure a safe retirement no matter how inept or brutal their rule.  Perhaps the time has arrived to use the banking crisis roiling the international financial community to crack down on this "wink wink" attitude toward enabling such regimes from continuing to plunder their own countries.

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 09:34:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think we need to distinguish between (6+ / 0-)

    1) external / foreign calls for a Libyan-style uprising and 2) advocacy for foreign intervention beyond economic sanctions. The Syrians themselves will determine the contours of their opposition, and events in Homs in particular may already be indicating a trend toward guerrila-style armed resistance. Whether that could / will escalate into civil war is the million-dollar question...

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:55:25 AM PST

  •  I hope we listen to the Arab League regarding (7+ / 0-)

    NATO intervention. Syrian Army numbers about 500,000 troops armed with tanks, missiles, airplanes and the usual ordnance and equipment of a military.
    The rebels, whom the West has so breathlessly adopted number between 1,000 and 25,000.  They have a few artillery pieces and anti tank guns.  They are also not coordinated.  The protest movement itself asked them to stop their attacks on the military as it was delegitimizing the nonviolent nature of the movement.

    The last thing the US should want to do is to insert men and equipment into the area, where they would become targets for Syrian army units and Hizbullah supporters.  I suppose Reagan's adventures in Lebanon are not remembered by our current hawks.

    In short the movement in Syria is different in nature from the movement in Libya and our intervention there will only serve to radicalize various players more.  It will not be a "clean" operation as I have seen Libya described while Libya was a closer thing than we like to admit.  Had Kadaffi not  pulled several bone headed moves, he well could have survived the rebellion and maybe even held onto power.  The Assad family is a different kettle of fish.  While they can be as bloody as Kadaffi, they are also more calculating in their use of force and are more likely to use concentrated forces directed at narrow components of their population, unlike what happened in Libya.

  •  Tipped for agreement (8+ / 0-)

    and to offset incredibly bogus driveby HR.

  •  callous, ignorant jerks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, Brecht, poco

    don't even know where syria is and couldn't give a shit that people are being slaughtered there.

    our one demand? return what was stolen.

    by stolen water on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 08:31:54 AM PST

  •  May I remind people here that Libya is not (5+ / 0-)

    finished yet despite the fact that the NATO nations have been patting themselves on the back and saying what a wonderful job they have done and that no one was killed. They are also congratulating themselves on the fact that the costs of the "surgical operation" will be more than offset by contracts to rebuild the nation.

    The fat lady hasn't sung in Libya yet. There are some storm clouds on the horizon. The US backed Haftar has been chosen in Benghazi to lead the military while the Qatar backed Belhadj was chosen in Tripoli. The militias are armed to the teeth and several skirmishes between them in the last month have killed a dozen or so.

    In addition, Libyan people have become accustomed to a social welfare sate and I doubt they will be able to control the neo-liberal forces that will descend upon the country to reap their rewards. The people are in for a rude awakening. The US/NATO controlled UN has tight grip on Libya's sovereign funds and will only dispense the funds as they see fit.

    What share of national natural resources go to the people in the NATO countries? From little to none. What makes anyone think that these riches will accrue to the people and not the huge multinationals in the future?

    The Libyan oil may remain nationalized but you can bet your gold Dinars that there will be PSA's (Production Sharing Agreements) that give the bulk of the profits to the oil companies just as they do in Iraq. These PSA's amount to a system of long term contracts which maintain the facade of public ownership but in fact lock the country into deals that are beyond the reach of courts, public scrutiny or democratic control.

    I'm going to wait to see if R2P was really "Right to Protect" or was really "Right to Pillage".

  •  your accusations need links (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, Brecht, volleyboy1

    as for the substance of it, i think that an uprising->civil war is coming in syria, whether our country intervenes in any way or not. i don't think that's reason for bombing syria, FWIW.

  •  Russia moves chess piece in "Great Game" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, Brecht, Woody
    Russia warships to enter Syria waters as a message to West

    Russian warships are due to arrive at Syrian territorial waters, a Syrian news agency said on Thursday, indicating that the move represented a clear message to the West that Moscow would resist any foreign intervention in the country's civil unrest.

  •  The key difference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    between Syria and Libya is that a large enough chunk of the Syrian population supports Assad on independent policy grounds to prevent his toppling.  They don't like him and hate the corruption, violence, bad domestic policy, abuses of power etc. but they do regard him as an adequate military leader should there be clashes with Israel.  They just don't see any post-Assad head of state capable of the role.

    I believe this doesn't mean they think Assad will be victorious or even want him to be victorious in fights with Israel.  Nor are they looking for someone who will be.   Assad is willing to fight on in the impoverished and low competence Syrian condition of the present but isn't an embarrassment to basic tribal Syrian pride in the continuing defeats and stalemates.  He's a prideful and sullen but not desperate loser as concerns the running conflict with Israel.  This may be the optimal kind of leadership in Syria's current situation in average Syrian eyes and that of their neighbors.  He's not going to win the conflict, he's not going to lose it, and he's not wasting lots of lives in it.

    My view is that the conflicts in the Middle East have settled into a Cold War order, with two key powers aligning and supporting the conflicts between all the lesser powers of the region.  (Syria being one of the lesser powers.)  Regime change in Teheran is the key event, will collapse this two pole dynamic within the Middle East which keeps all current governments in the region in power and afraid and living on borrowed time.  Much like all those Eastern European governments in the 1980s which couldn't survive a change of regime in Moscow and whose populations were simply waiting for the day when .  Assad, as an ally of the Khamenei regime, will likely be able to hold on barely until that day comes in Teheran- which is maybe five, at most around ten years away.

    As pointed out by Syrian opposition and resistance activists, there is nothing else respectable keeping Assad in power or his regime legitimized.  There is Alawite fear of recriminatory violence and people bought and rewarded in various ways who still support him.  But in a sense he's already gone, is living on borrowed time, has done the Wiley E. Coyote thing of walking off the cliff and standing on political thin air.  

    •  Does Teheran Regime Change Matter? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Since Teheran supports the Syrian Alawite regime because of sectarian reasons, just how does any regime change in Teheran change the Iranian support for the Alawite regime in Damascus?  Even if the ayatollahs depart Teheran, the basic Iranian impetus would be to continue to support a quasi-Shia government in Syria rather than allowing another Sunni regime come to power.  A quick look at Bahrain shows what happens when a Sunni ruling party decides to crack down on a sectarian minority.  No government in Teheran is going to welcome that sort of outcome and will work against it.  Only a total overthrow of the Iranian government and its replacement with some foreign-dominated puppet regime would change that calculus and I don't think anyone is going to be seeing a replay of the Iraq scenario anytime soon.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 09:20:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do you have a point? (0+ / 0-)

    Is a murderous dictatorship fine so long as too many people would be killed resisting it?  Are you under the impression that Assad is going to stop murdering people if they just lay down their arms?

    The Syrian protesters have been willing to face down the army frequently armed with nothing more than signs.  If they're willing to risk their lives for freedom, who am I to tell them it will be "too bloody?"

  •  Thanks for putting these things (9+ / 0-)

    into perspective, InAntalya. Assad and his allies need to go, but it must be the Syrians themselves who push them out. Not only would this allow the people to decide their own fate, but a foreign military intervention would be a disaster for not just Syria but everyone of its neighbors.

    Republished to Adalah.

    If the people one day wish to live / destiny cannot but respond / And the night cannot but disappear / and the bonds cannot but break. -- Abu'l-Qasim al-Shabbi

    by unspeakable on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:26:26 PM PST

  •  Thanks InAntalya (6+ / 0-)

    I don't think I've seen you quite this passionate before but I understand why. The suffering that could be wrought by military intervention makes me just as angry. I have friends in Syria and family and friends in Lebanon and I would hate for anything to happen for them and the calls for violence make me sick to my stomach.

    Not just that the callous, ignorant jerks don't get what the situation is in Syria and the region right now. There is a triangular power play going on between Saudi (with Israeli and US backing), Iran and Turkey. Each of these players wants control/influence in Syria since Syria is a geographical hub. The Iranians want an arc from Iran through Iraq (which our callous, ignorant foreign policy gave to Iran!) to Syria and Lebanon to have their own arc of control/influence in the region. The Saudis and the GCC want their own arc of influence to control the region - they are desperately pouring money into Egyptian and Moroccan elections (they also did so with the recent Tunisian election). Syria would complete that. Turkey, is looking eastward now to new markets and allies and Assad was once an ally but now that he has been weakened, the Turks want to have a hand in who will be the new leaders, since they are concerned about the Kurds in Turkey and Syria and how they will respond.

    The Saudis  have been desperately trying to get the US to bomb Iran to try to eliminate one potential threat. They believe that since Turkey is a member of NATO, the US can reign them in. Rumors in Lebanon are that Saudi is using its proxies in Lebanon to smuggle weapons to its allies in Syria. The Turks don't appear to have made any military moves yet, it's still at the talking stage. I haven't been following up on what Iran has been doing but I'm sure that they are supporting the regime through Hizbullah (although that is just my speculation).

    Noone is really interested in what the Syrian people want, least of all the US. Our policy now, since the apparent failure of any UN sanctions against Syria (Russia has a naval base in Tartus and supplies Syria with weapons and both Russia and China have stepped up their economic ties with Syria) is to get the Arab League to act. The same anti-democratic Arab League that is quashing Bahraini and Yemeni protests and supporting fundamentalist Islamists in the Arab world.

    What we should be doing is strongly supporting the Syrian people in non-violent ways, Instead, we are exploiting the situation with our Saudi and Arab League allies, surely amongst the most undesirable governments that currently exist on this planet.

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