Despite the still blurry picture when it comes to use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war, the march towards (further) U.S. entry into it continues. The “red line!” howls have expanded, dragging from storage such old reliable as claiming Assad is NeoHitler rather than just another dictator & waving the bloody rags of dead children — as if kids are immune to Tomahawk missiles. Best efforts to avoid it failing, some facsimile of a debate is taking place, with Obama calling for a congressional vote on the matter (while saying he’ll ignore a No vote…). The House leaders are already engaging in a mess o’ bipartisanship, so odds are that the alleged representatives of The People will ignore what The Actual People really think & vote in favor of more war.
Last time the U.S. government got trigger happy over WMDs, Britain happily joined the fray. This time… not so much. Parliament voted no, & they’re actually sticking to it thus far*. Such a move prompted a shining example of impending post-imperial angst from one Gideon Rachman at FT.com**. For one, it actually starts off with a favorable quoting of “White Man’s Burden”, then goes downhill from there, lamenting the shallowness of Obama’s strategy on Syria in a way practically begging for even further escalation:
-”What if Assad isn’t deterred?”
A: Either additional munitions were added to a conflict expending blood & treasure for nothing, or the strike served as the nose of the camel — congratulations, you’ve made the war even worse.
-”What about other human rights violations in Syria, do we just ignore them?”
A: The U.S. ignores them among its allies, so…
-”Is there a coherent U.S. vision about the future of Syria?”
A: Why should there be? Should Syrians have plans for the future of the U.S.? How deep does this claimed responsibility go?
Right smack in the middle of Gideon’s remarks comes a self inflicted Weapon of Massive Derp (emphasis mine):
America has seen itself as the guarantor of global security since 1945, but that has never meant intervening in every conflict or stopping every human rights abuse. The US did not intervene in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s – which, like the Syrian conflict, was waged between two sides that America distrusted and also involved the use of chemical weapons.
…I think I’ll just leave this right here. Credibility, thou art shot!
Pro-imperialism arguments alluding to reliance on American military power by other nations, implying that the subtraction of such power would doom them, like Gideon finishes this off with, I’ve long found awkward for their arrogance & short-sightedness. The idea that, for example, Japan would be screwed were the U.S. to remove its military bases & cancel its alliance treaty assumes a paralysis on their part even in the face of an actual threat were one to emerge, as if staring down incoming bombs the Japanese would simply curl up into balls & cry. That this likely isn’t the case shows its continuance as simply force projection today. If it somehow was the case, then that aspect of relations would be one of paternalism, with the much older nation holding the role of children — which still wouldn’t answer why to maintain it.
In comparison, more abstract claims of U.S. military dominance being the backbone of the current world order in general at least sniff honesty, though their users have in mind “stability & security” while I see the system defined as global capitalism. The latter framing tends to bring better into focus why certain things are done in lieu of others within the system in terms of incentive.
Speaking of incentives, Zack Beauchamp also chimed in on Syria recently, in his case ending up shoehorning cosmopolitan sentiment into application of the American war machine:
Our obligation to respect the rights of others is grounded firmly in their humanity, not their gender, skin tone, religious (dis)belief, or any other arbitrary characteristic humans have historically used as a pretext to discriminate against their fellows. National origin belongs on the list of moral irrelevancies: it’s not like Syrian civilians being gassed by the Assad regime chose to be Syrians. The American government has strong moral obligations to Syrians for the same reasons it has strong obligations to all Americans and not just the white male ones who counted at the nation’s inception. This means the argument that America should stay out of Syria if it doesn’t have any “vital national security interests” at stake, already made by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), is bunk.
Different root — citizen of the world vs White Man’s Burden — but same conclusion of conveniently unidirectional responsibility. Now I have questions: Who does the US government in his view not have obligations to? If obligations conflict, who wins? How deep does this claimed obligation go?
If one takes this claimed responsibility at face value, then the “limited” nature of the proposed strikes looks contradictory from their angle, the quibble over what weapons are used to kill Syrians practically begging to evolve into regime change. Ironic, since doing so would mean even more dead Syrians. Contrary to Zack’s assumption, it’s not necessary to subscribe to Cruz’ rank nationalism to oppose intervention. Recognizing we are all human, it’s simple really: first, do no harm.
* – BTW: here’s some glaring hypocrisy on their part.
** – Semi-gated, asks for registration.