Belmont Club


The BBC is reporting that napalm has been dropped on a schoolyard in Syria, killing approximately ten children and burning a score of others.

Syria: ‘napalm’ bomb dropped on school playground, BBC claimsWitnesses told a team from the BBC’s Panorama programme that a fighter jet had repeatedly flown overhead, as if searching for a target, before dropping the bomb.

The attack killed more than 10 pupils and left many more seriously injured, the BBC said.

Footage showed adults and children, their clothes burned from their bodies, being treated on the floor of a basic hospital. Many had burns to more than 50% of their bodies, it was claimed.

If perpetrated by Syria, it would be backhanded slap at the US which used napalm in combat in World War 2, Korea and Vietnam. The US can hardly accuse Syria of crossing a Red Line by using a munition so associated with US forces. Actually “International law does not prohibit the use of napalm or other incendiaries against military targets, but use against civilian populations was banned by the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1980.”

The BBC has video here.

The video does not appear to show the effects of anything like the familiar napalm track. The scorch marks are more localized, suggestive of a thermobaric type of weapon some of which are found in the Russian inventory.

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There is not enough data to determine whether or not the weapon used was delivered by aerial rocket or by a shoulder launched tube. The vertical impact of the device could have been from high trajectory weapon or might have been the result of aerial fire. Most people will say “thermobaric, shermobaric”. But the word “napalm” is far more evocative to Western audiences, who will no doubt have reservoirs of indignation buried deep alongside memories of the old newsreels.

However it will be readily seen than if real napalm bombs had been employed against the school the damage would not have not have resembled the scene shown in the BBC clip. Does it matter? In the raw numbers of war, probably not. But in politics, emotions count. So the scenes of civilian victims will only intensify the calls to act in Syria.

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Yet the spotlight on a weapon — a particular weapon like WP, thermobarics, napalm, whatever — should ironically draw attention to the obvious American interest in Syria which is to keep the conflict spreading to neighboring countries. Caroline Glick rightly points out that Syria is really all about weapons. Weapons for Hezbollah, weapons like ballistic missiles pointed at Israel. Weapons in the form of armed men ready to pour into Jordan and Lebanon. Weapons galore. It is like a pustule ready to burst. “A reasonable response would be for the US to target Syria’s ballistic missile sites,” she writes. “And that could happen.”

But it won’t happen. And the reason is the Obama administration’s conflicted policy of winning/not winning in Syria itself. In that strange limbo the only cure for weapons is more weapons. The US itself is pouring weapons into Syria, or allowing its allies to flood it with arms, in the belief that creating a stalemate will lead to peace. But what it is objectively achieving, despite its noble intentions, it to pour high octane gasoline — in the form of weapons — on the flames in hopes that it will cool things down. “The superficial logic of arms-for-peace is elegant, to be sure, rooted in the classic diplomatic axiom that a political settlement to an armed conflict is possible only when, for all relevant players, the expected utility of a negotiated peace, E[u(p)], is greater than the expected utility of continued war, E[u(w)]. There are several arguments as to how a calibrated infusion of arms into Syria will help produce this rare condition.”

Unfortunately, none of these arguments seem to work in the real world. And stirring in one or two more carrier battle groups worth of firepower to redecorate the landscape won’t change the equation. The complete failure of the administration’s policy to date has led it to substitute showmanship for reality. In the words of Caroline Glick, all Obama has left is circuses. All he can do now is act the trained seal so that nobody notices the Big Top is on fire. Otherwise the customers might clamor for a refund. So, while the international media is rightly concerned with the real horrors of the Syrian civil war it has now obscured the need for a semblance of rational policy.

In truth the Syrian policy is a mess. And while the napalm of the body is a terrible thing, the napalm of the mind is almost as bad. The one item indubitably burned to a cinder has been our brains. The Washington Post says that both the Syrian rebels and the Assad government are engaged in a scramble to hide from the impending strike. Earlier it was reported that human shields were being imported en masse into Syrian government buildings. Thereafter we were informed that Assad’s bureaucrats were moving into schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities. It must be a madhouse in Damascus, crisscrossed by moving vans. U-haul must be doing a land office business. Were the situation not so serious it would have the appearance of comedy with both “enemy” and “friend” — can we use those words? — struggling over possession of the limited hideouts. But nothing seems impossible any more.

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