The war-weary United States of America look to be gearing up to engage in war with Syria.
After an apparent “chemical weapons attack” by Syria on its own people, the U.S. appears to be on the verge of intervening militarily in the two-and-a-half year long Syrian uprising turned civil war.
Many who promote this course of action do so under the premise that the U.S. has a responsibility, as the world military super power, to protect Syrian civilians from their unstable political struggle involving an indiscriminate and violent dictator. This is an overly simplistic premise for invasion which ignores that geopolitical motives are a much larger, if not sole, driver of U.S. foreign policy.
Having previously stated that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict would be a red line that if crossed would compel the U.S. to intervene, President Obama has painted himself into a corner. He now risks looking weak for his lack of action or stands the chance of igniting a war on account of his choices.
While there is a treaty against the use of these weapons, Syria has not signed on. The U.S. itself has used chemical weapons in past conflicts and has also been complacent in the use of them by U.S. allies. In the Iraq-Iran conflict during the ’80s, the U.S. even advised Iraq — then a U.S. ally — on using chemical weapons effectively.
Besides who used which chemicals when, why does the U.S. even regard the use of chemical weapons as a red line requiring military intervention? The chemical attack, as heinous as it is, has only added 1,000 to a death count that is already over 100,000 in Syria.
If the U.S. were truly concerned with international interventions based on a responsibility to protect innocent people then they should have stepped in sooner and broadened their sights. There are many people worldwide who live in terror of constant political violence, including many places the U.S. seems to not be so eager to enter.
There are scores of conflicts going on now in Africa where innocent people are at risk. Egypt has seen hundreds dying by the week in its recent flare-up of political violence. There are people in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia living under legal regimes that leave them in constant terror of political violence — sometimes perpetrated by U.S.allied nations.
The Syrian regime has been problematic for the U.S. ever since its friendly relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and, more recently, with Iran. For the U.S., taking out Syria is an opportunity to take a shot at an old threat and a new one.
While it would be nice if the U.S. were mainly motivated to intervene in Syria based on a sense of compassion and a responsibility to protect innocent lives, this would be a naïve belief. Instead, the premise of protecting the Syrian people will serve to justify another U.S. intervention in the Middle East, one that is really meant to advance U.S. interests and project U.S. power in the region.
The notion that chemical weapons aren’t like other forms of attack exists because they bring unseen death from above in an indiscriminate manner. However, without additional knowledge, the same could be said about the drone warfare practised by the U.S. throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.
After any future U.S. intervention in Syria, the U.S. political-military actors in charge will be sure to self-congratulate on a job well done in protecting the Syrian people. Meanwhile the calls for a continued responsibility to protect people in places deemed less important or out of reach of the U.S. world police will fall to the wayside as they usually do.
Graphic: Mike T