With the U.S. war machine in full gear for an expected air assault on Syria, and with a US media continuing to focus on the inevitability of such an attack but not the true reasons behind it, the fundamental question remains: Why would the U.S., backed by its NATO allies, carry out such a misguided, dangerous, and—not to put too fine a point on it—stupid military campaign?
Citing reasons strategic, legal, and moral—critics of a U.S.-led attack on Syria are being drowned out by major news outlets, many citing unnamed government sources, who say U.S. cruise missile attacks (and possibly a multi-day aerial bombing campaign) could begin as earlier as Thursday.
But why? To what end? Who benefits? And who will be left to suffer?
Though asking these questions may not determine definitive answers, there are at least three points of agreement among experts cautioning against war. First, the details of last week’s use of a chemical agent outside remain unclear and government claims about intelligence on the matter should be received with high levels of skepticism. Second, even if the Assad government, or someone loyal to it, was responsible for the attack the idea that cruise missiles would be the appropriate response (legally, morally or otherwise) is simply not true. And lastly, there is simply no military solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
So what’s the real goal of the attack on Syria?
Asked that question by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman on Wednesday, foreign policy analyst Phyllis Bennis—referencing Obama’s August 2012 comment about use of chemical weapons being a “red line” in terms of U.S. military intervention—articulated this answer:
But is that analysis—that this is all political cover for Obama in the face of neoconservative pressure or the fear that failure to “respond” with military might will look the U.S. look weak—too simplistic?
Perhaps. But Bennis is not alone in her assessment that what’s really at stake in Syria is something overtly fundamental to U.S. power precisely because the calculations being made by the Obama administration to launch strikes are so clearly shrugging off the self-evident complexities and dangerous possibilities predicted to result from military action.
Put another way, the simple political calculation that Obama must “save face” is really an admission that what’s most important in terms of U.S. foreign policy is that the potency of U.S. military power should never be questioned by potential rivals or made to look impotent by other nations.
The simple political calculation that Obama must “save face” is really an admission that what’s most important in terms of U.S. foreign policy is that the potency of U.S. military power should never be questioned by potential rivals or made to look impotent by other nations.
In that context, as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes at Common Dreams, the real target of U.S. military action is not the Assad regime per se—but Iran.
“Obviously, there is concern about the human rights catastrophe in Syria,” writes McGovern, “but is the main target Syria’s main ally, Iran, as many suspect?”
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