Weekly Links

By Taylor Marvin

Jasper Francis Cropsey, 'The Spirit of War'. Via the National Gallery of Art

Jasper Francis Cropsey, ‘The Spirit of War’. Via the National Gallery of Art.

The US and Russia reached a deal Saturday aimed at disposing of Syria’s chemical arms by mid-2014. The text of the agreement notes that “the United States and the Russian Federation have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons used” and expect Syria to submit a comprehensive account of its chemical weapons within a week. The rebels are unsurprisingly deeply disappointed by the cooperation between the US and Russia, which they see as a refusal to hold the Assad regime accountable.

Can Moscow move past Assad? Robert Farley wonders if Russia will regret “owning” Syria, and argues that Moscow’s credibility investment in Assad’s chemical weapons makes serious verification efforts “beside the point, because Russia is essentially putting its good word behind the declaration that the Syrian government will not use chemical weapons again during this conflict.”

Phil Arena asks how US signals of weakness — specifically, the public admission that US airstrikes would be limited, if they occurred at all — brought Russia and Syria to the table. William Saletan insists in Slate that a continued credible threat of US airstrikes is critical to maintaining Assad’s cooperation.

In a Washington Post op-ed in favor of intervening in Syria Sebastian Junger writes that “at some point, pacifism becomes part of the machinery of death, and isolationism becomes a form of genocide.”

Brown Moses again compiles his recent reporting and sources regarding chemical weapons.

New video appears to show the Syria rebels successfully downing a regime helicopter near Aleppo.

Alireza Nader writes that the US and Iran’s shared interest in preventing radical Sunni extremists from taking power in Syria leaves room for cooperation between the two regional rivals. For its part the US continues to support its own proxies. Marc Lynch notes the problems with this strategy: “Waging a proxy war will necessarily mean not doing a lot of other things that America might otherwise do in the region and around the world — which is probably just how the Gulf states like it.”

Last winter Erica Chenoweth looked at Endgame: Syriaa game that attempts to simulate the conflict. As the war has progressed, so has the game, even incorporating feedback from Syrians. Reminiscent of the controversy over 2010 first-person shooter Medal of Honor’s Afghan war setting, Endgame: Syria also raises increasingly relevant questions about the tastefulness of entertainment games recreating ongoing wars.

Elsewhere, Jay Ulfelder draws attention to killings in South Sudan, and the map blog Political Geography Now updates their map of the Central African Republic’s counter-rebellion.

Is negotiating with the Taliban pointless? Marvin G. Weinbaum thinks so, arguing that “the illusion that talks with the Afghan Taliban can result in a grand bargain” has “diverted attention from needed domestic reforms; undermined confidence in the critical economic, political, and security transitions underway with the departure of US and other NATO forces; and harmed prospects for a viable Afghan state after 2014.”

Update: Joseph Young’s August 2012 piece on when mass shootings can be considered terrorism seems relevant to discussion of the recent Navy Yard tragedy.

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