Search YouTube for “Syria Scud” and you’ll find some horrific shit. The government has been blowing up residential buildings in cities held by Sunni rebels using missiles. For the past two years.
But recently, they’ve used chemical weapons on civilians, and this is somehow different. Even though it is pretty well certain that far fewer people have died from these chemical attacks than in “conventional” attacks. It’s like how even though we killed far more people in the conventional bombings of Dresden and Tokyo (not to mention rural Vietnam), destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki is what America should feel guilty about. It’s not how many people you kill, it’s how you kill them.
So I guess we’re going to shoot missiles into their country from a gunboat? We’ve got three models of warfare going on at once. We’ve got a Bush war (hah! pun!) going on in Afghanistan for at least a little while longer, an Obama war with robot assassins in God knows how many countries, and now a downright nostalgic “just shoot missiles at them” Clinton-style war brewing in Syria. Oh and also a School of the Americas, US-trained death squads “war” going on in Honduras, so I guess we’re still going full-Reagan as well.
Supposedly, dying of a chemical attack in a hospital is “worse” than dying under tons of the rubble of your apartment building or from a bleeding gunshot wound in the street, so we’ve got to get involved in yet another regional civil war? Doesn’t make sense to me.
I’d like a non-interventionist America. Sure, in the abstract, there is actually an argument for having a democratic world power, or better yet (though maybe implausibly) some sort of internationalist coalition, that polices the basic laws of warfare. But the US has shown itself blind to its allies and downright hypocritical so often over the past half-century that it really would just be better if we retreated to our pre-Roosevelt foreign policy. It would certainly reduce the motivation of foreign terrorists who really are just fighting for dominance of their home turf. And isn’t preventing domestic terror attacks the nominal justification for everything we’ve done over the past 12 (Jesus…) years?
But, if we are going to go along with this incredibly expensive project of being an empire, I’d rather see us do an intelligent job of it. In the long run, a well-run Pax Americana would cost fewer lives than a disorganized and schizophrenic one. And guess what, the Assad regime is localized, desperate, conventional, and easily controllable, whereas pan-Arab Sunni religious nationalism (that is to say Al Qaeda) is kind of our enemy as far as enforcing hegemony in the Middle-East. England under Victoria or even the US under Truman would have thought this through a little better. I truly cannot understand why US militarists haven’t seen the value of the Baathist party as a regional ally.
There was this whole Neo-Con Bush idea that our war in Iraq was going to trigger a wave of democracy across the Middle-East. And I guess that has happened, if by “democracy” one means open violent conflict between Sunni and Shia that overthrows formerly quasi-secular governments. I really think that the best course now would be to withdraw completely, wait for someone to win, and make deals with whoever comes out on top. Is that cynical and uncaring? Reserved cynicism is preferable to violent idealism. But at this point, our leadership (a club that nominally includes Obama) is following a script simply out of a lack of any plausible strategy or the will to stay uninvolved.
I am 100% certain that what we’re about to do in Syria is not going to help anyone at all. Not the civilians. Not the “rebels.” Not Israel (regardless of what conspiracy theorists think). And certainly not us.