By Doug Porter
Once again the world faces an ogre whose actions threaten the sensibilities of good people everywhere and any neighborhood or ethinic group that gets in his way. I am speaking of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the latest in a series of post-cold war functionaries to break bad on the world and their own people.
Syria, like much of the post-colonial world, is a nation-state created at the point of a gun by its European conquerors. Assad is just another functionary entrusted with keeping stability in an unstable region.
He and his father before him were placeholders for Soviet interests in the Middle East. Today Syria and Iran stand alone against the Sunni masters of Saudi Arabia, a US surrogate increasingly open about operating on its own agenda.
The Saudi monarchy’s religious interests are intertwined with economic multinational energy oligarchies, making for a three, perhaps four, dimensional background for policies in the region. I’m sure a lot of Pentagon types yearn for the good old days when it was just the U.S. vs the Commies.
A huge number of Americans can’t even locate Syria on a map, much less understand the ethnic divisions within that nation or the competing types of Islam that make any “political” solution nearly impossible.
Now we’re being told about horrible, inhumane treatment of people within Syria. French intelligence-and other sources- are unequivocally saying that Sarin nerve gas was used to allow the Assad regime’s troops to capture an area they’d failed to conquer by conventional means. Over 1400 people are dead. The “evidence” was largely destroyed by subsequent artillery barrages from the Syrian army.
The conventional wisdom is that Syrian President Bashar Assad must be taught a lesson, one that will discourage him from violating international law in the future. It can’t be too much of a lesson—like sending a smart bomb through his bedroom window—lest the bad guys (Al Qaeda) embedded within the good guys (Syrian rebels) be allowed to seize power.
President Obama has refrained from taking action to date. By asking for Congressional approval on any military action (never mind for the moment if unilateral action is legal under international law), he’s put the onus squarely on the shoulders of the chicken hawks who have ruled the roost of US foreign policy for decades.
The upcoming battle in Congress is largely symbolic. The President, following in the policy precedents set by his predecessors, believes he doesn’t really need Congressional approval to take military action. This vote is being held to negate future political fallout.
Congress will return next week and promises are being made that there will actually be a vote taken. So far nobody’s tied any potential resolution to defunding Obamacare, but I would not be surprised if that actually happens. The ‘conventional wisdom’ is that the vote will be close.
BUT… a unilateral decision to take military action would be a whole lot less likely if there is an overwhelmingly adverse reaction to the President’s proposal. He’d be sacrificing much needed political capital for other looming battles, including Obamacare, the budget/sequestration and immigration.
I know it sounds horrible on the face of it to say that we as a nation should not intervene to protect civilians from being killed by nerve gas. However, it sounds equally wrong to say we should kill civilians to save civilians. And I’m not even sure the subject is up for discussion, at least as far as the mass media is concerned.
From Ray Pensador at Daily Kos:
The crescendo of voices calling for war (or is it “limited strike?”) is growing louder and louder by the day (not, by the minute); the simplistic false dichotomies that are always used in war propaganda are repeated over and over, like a mantra: “We don’t want babies to be killed with gas attacks by the monster, Assad, and so we need to launch missiles at the country to prevent babies form being killed.”
The mockery and name-calling and marginalizing of those calling for restraint, for careful examination of all the facts and all the options, increases exponentially, drowning out their voices, as drums of war are banged louder and louder–in a frenzy.
I also question just how “honest” a debate we can have when just about everything is stamped “top secret” these days. It’s kind of hard to prevail in a debate with your mouth taped shut.
It’s also my contention that nobody’s demonstrated how such intervention would actually accomplish stopping the Syrian slaughter. As one wag said over the weekend, if our goal is to send Assad a message, Facebook might be a lot cheaper and just as (in)effective.
It’s time to break out the peace signs, call your Congresscritter and educate yourselves.
Here’s today’s New York Times editorial:
President Obama made the right decision to seek Congressional authorization for his announced plan to order unilateral military strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons. There has to be a vigorous and honest public debate on the use of military force, which could have huge consequences even if it is limited in scope and duration.
If he is to win Congressional support, Mr. Obama and his top aides will have to explain in greater detail why they are so confident that the kind of military strikes that administration officials have described would deter President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from gassing his people again (American officials say more than 1,400 were killed on Aug. 21) rather than provoke him to unleash even greater atrocities.
They will also have to explain how they can keep the United States from becoming mired in the Syrian civil war — something Mr. Obama, for sound reasons, has long resisted — and how military action will advance the cause of a political settlement: the only rational solution to the war.
Much better than the drums of war: Imagine by John Lennon…
I’ll be back tomorrow with plenty of local news. It’s just not possible to prognosticate with four potential Mayoral candidates holding afternoon (or late morning) press conferences.
On This Day: 1783 – The Revolutionary War between the U.S. and Great Britain ended with the Treaty of Paris. 1895 – The first professional football game was played in Latrobe, PA. The Latrobe YMCA defeated the Jeannette Athletic Club 12-0. 1992 – David Bowie appeared on the cover of “Architectural Digest.” He was the first human on the cover in 4 years.
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