Doug Saunders' journalism has been gracing the pages of Canada's newspaper of record for about twenty years now. His current position is "opinion writer on international affairs" or something along those lines. As such, he's more on the analysis and commentary side of things. In other words, his job is to spin the facts into a narrative that his employer is comfortable with.
The print version of his column today is titled "The fall of Aleppo:Four sobering lessons." His four sobering lessons also appear in the online version of the story, and I have copied them verbatim below. My comments are italicised.
Doug Saunders' four sobering lessons from the fall of Aleppo
Did Aleppo "fall" or was it retaken by legitimate government forces?
1. The Islamic State was never the main problem. The territorial ambitions of the ultra-Islamist militia have ruined lives, imprisoned regions and showered terrorist outrages on Western cities. But the newly redrawn map of Syria makes the basic fact more clear: the Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) was purely a product of Mr. al-Assad’s decision to resist a mass uprising against his rule. It only remains a threat as long as he continues his fight.
ISIS was "purely a product of Mr. al-Assad's decision to resist a mass uprising against his rule." It was? Virtually any mainstream explanation of the rise of ISIS posits its roots in the US invasion of Iraq. ISIS evolved out of the radical Islamist insurgency that grew out of that invasion. That's the consensus position on virtually every news site. Mr. al-Assad is not responsible for the creation of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. America is.
The Islamic State will not fade away soon. It just used the chaos of the assault on Aleppo to retake the historic city of Palmyra. But the Islamic State is a symptom, not the disease: Nine out of 10 deaths have been delivered by Mr. al-Assad’s state forces. The Islamic State appeared when he lost legitimacy, and will not disappear until he loses power.
"Nine out of ten deaths have been delivered by Mr. al-Assad's state forces."
They have? Not if you consult the Wikipedia entry for Casualties of the Syrian civil war. The article cites various sources including some that are prominently anti-Assad to come up with estimates of approximately 100,000 government combatant casualties and a similar number of opposition combatant casualties. That takes care of about half the casualties right there. The idea that 90% of the casualties have been innocent civilians targeted by Assad is rubbish.
2. Puppet states are back. Post-Aleppo Syria is a manufactured product of Russian and Iranian military and economic aid, period. Not since the Cold War has a satellite state combined a total lack of public legitimacy with total repression of its people in such a horrendous way. Let us not allow this to become a model.
3. The refugee camps will become permanent cities. Turkey’s Gaziantep and Sanliurfa camps and the surrounding cities each contain around 300,000 Arabs and Kurds (of 2.5 million now living in Turkey) who have fled Mr. al-Assad’s vengeance. Jordan’s Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps contain more than 140,000 people. As long as the Assad regime remains in control, they cannot return; nor can the much smaller numbers of refugees who have fled to Europe and North America. It is time to start acknowledging these new cities, and populations, as long-term realities that could exist for a decade.
A decade? The Palestinian refugee cities scattered about the Middle East have been around for well over half a century. The reverberations from our failed regime change policy with respect to Assad can be expected to last at least as long. Had Turkey and Jordan not connived with the US "regime change" agenda from the beginning, they wouldn't be facing this refugee burden today.
4. The Libyan option was preferable. The decision by the United States (and Canada) to avoid a full-scale military intervention in Syria in 2012 and 2013 was based largely on recent precedent: The long-term invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were catastrophic failures, leaving little appetite for another. But why, after the gas-attack nightmare of 2013 crossed every red line, didn’t we lend our military strength to unseat Mr. al-Assad? The answer, by then, was Libya: The same thing was done there in 2011, when NATO forces lent air support to the popular move to overthrow their own dictator – and now look at the place. A disaster.
But that’s the less horrific option. Libya is an unstable mess verging on a civil war of its own. But it is not the site of the sort of enormous-scale monstrosities, involving hundreds of thousands of deaths, that it would have become if Moammar Gadhafi had been kept in power and permitted to mete his revenge.
We also have to remember, when contemplating U.S. President Barack Obama’s fateful failure to take action (and Justin Trudeau’s promise not to get involved), that the best possible outcome “getting tough” could have produced would have been something resembling current-day Libya. He would be under attack by media and Republicans for provoking this outcome, and Western militaries would be caught in an impossible position. But hundreds of thousands would likely still be alive.
Just wrecking Syria the way we did Libya would be preferable? Libyans enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa under the "despot" Gadhafi. What are they enjoying today? The disgusting arrogance on display here is utterly despicable. How is it our business to decide what's right for Libya or what's right for Syria?