Monday, June 11, 2012

Third Time Lucky

We had Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning at the Obama State Department, write an op-ed ("Syrian intervention is justifiable, and it's just," Washington Post, June 8) in support of bombing Syria.  We've reprinted seven key points with staff commentary.

1.  Don't believe us when we say we want regime change
For some reason China and Russia don't believe anything we say.
A.M. Slaughter: Henry Kissinger recently argued against intervention in Syria [“The perils of intervention in Syria,” Washington Post, June 3] on the grounds that it would imperil the foundation of world order. His analysis was based on a straw man, one put forward by the Russian and Chinese governments, that outside intervention would seek to “bring about regime change.”
Fear Dept: It goes without saying that any idea held by China or Russia is inherently worthless, any perception they share, mistaken. 

2. Our plan works like magic
A.M. Slaughter: The point of an intervention in Syria would be to stop the killing — to force Bashar al-Assad and his government to meet the demands of the Syrian people with reforms rather than guns. If the killing stopped, it is not clear what shape the political process would adopt, how many millions would take to the streets or whom different factions would support.
Fear Dept:  We’ve done a lot to stop the killing already.  For example, we’ve encouraged Gulf state dictators to supply Syrian rebels with guns and explosives. Some say we're providing serious logistics support to the rebels. We can't comment on allegations that Mossad trains militants bent on destabilizing Iran’s most important ally.

If we bomb a country with a pure intention for the killing to stop, the Universe will create the outcome we desire; we just can’t know what shape the manifestation of our desire will take in advance. 

3. Syrian institutions will remain intact
Minority religions are over-represented in Syrian institutions.
A.M. Slaughter: The majority of Syrians would almost certainly demand that Assad leave office, but by the ballot box or a negotiated political settlement that would leave the Syrian state in the sense of bureaucracy, the army, the courts largely intact. The chaos and horrific violence in Iraq resulted in large part from the US determination to destroy those institutions along with Saddam Hussein.
Fear Dept: All we have to do is bomb Syria and voilà! A negotiated settlement and elections will leave “bureaucracy, the army, the courts largely intact.” When it comes to the transfer of power, the fact that many of the key positions in these institutions are held by Alawites and allied minorities should not create any complications.

If the U.S. made a strategic mistake in Iraq it certainly wasn’t the initial decision to invade.

4. Libya is actually a success story
In Benghazi there were no militiamen to be seen.
A.M. Slaughter: As a cautionary tale, Kissinger and others point not only to Iraq but also to Libya. Kissinger lumped Libya in with Yemen, Somalia and northern Mali as a “blank space” on the map “denoting lawlessness.” Yet political scientist Juan Cole, who recently visited Libya, where he expected a fair degree of chaos, reports that in Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli, “there were no militiamen to be seen, that most things were functioning normally, that there were police at traffic intersections, that there were children’s carnivals open till late, families out, that jewellery shops were open till 8 pm, [and] that Arabs and Africans were working side by side.”   The Economist reached the same conclusion early this year, reporting on relatively optimistic economic prospects.
Fear Dept: The fact our NATO air campaign did not eliminated all vestiges of civilization in several of the oldest cities in North Africa is a testimony to the righteousness of our decision to bomb the shit out of Libya.  And if we haven't ruined the economic prospects of one of the world's richest countries, that should count for something.   Slaughter was smart not to address the clashes in the Libyan countryside, the deteriorating situation in Mali, or the disaster that is Somalia in the wake of Ethiopia’s CIA-sponsored invasion. 

5. Let's hope nothing goes wrong
Not worth mentioning.
A.M. Slaughter: Kissinger is right that in the end NATO’s operations in Libya looked like an effort to remove Moammar Gaddafi from office, not because NATO planes took out command-and-control facilities in Tripoli from which Gaddafi and his generals were ordering civilian massacres but because NATO planes never sought to protect civilians supporting the regime against opposition troops. The response to this concern, however, is not to oppose intervention in Syria but to support a UN Security Council resolution with clear parameters about a limited use of force.
Fear Dept:  Our Security Council resolution on Libya said nothing about toppling Gaddafi, but we made that NATO’s mission anyway. For some reason China and Russia suspect we might pull the same stunt again.  In the past, Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that we don't need a Security Council approval for military action in Syria, suggesting the support of Arab league dictators ought to be sufficient.

Any use of force resolution would no longer be “limited” should the Syrians strike back against US, Turkish, NATO, or Israeli assets in the region. We're pleased Anne-Marie Slaughter does not think the possibility that a desperate Syrian regime would seek to draw Israel into the conflict is worth mentioning. 

6.  We have a plan to minimize civilian casualties
The civilian death toll from our military campaign will be zero.
A.M. Slaughter: Such a resolution, which would have to follow a request by the Arab League, should resolve to protect the establishment of no-kill zones by local Syrian authorities by whatever means necessary, short of foreign troops on the ground. These means would include the provision of intelligence and communications equipment, antitank and anti-mortar weapons, and, crucially, air support against Syrian government tanks and troops that seek to enter or overrun a zone. The provision of such support would also require the disabling of Syrian air defenses.
Fear Dept:  We have policies in place that should considerably reduce the civilian death toll from our military campaign.  None of the tens of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians that could reasonably be expected to die in our air campaign will be counted. That’s because the Secretary General of NATO does not count civilian deaths.  Moreover, the President calls the bodies of all military-age males found near strike zones “dead militants.” 

All the "no-kill zones" we carve inside Syria will provide a safe haven for friendly holy warriors from across the Middle East. We know these rebels will fight hard because many of them hate the fact that Syria is a secular state. They hate that Syria is not run by “genuine” Muslims of the Sunni sect. They hate that Syrian women have the freedom to walk the ancient streets of Damascus without head scarfs. On the other hand, they love getting paid in U.S. petrodollars. These fighters know the secular civilian population of Syria is a long way from being sufficiently terrorized to abandon support for Assad regime.  From bases protected by NATO air support, the holy warriors can hunt down Syrian soldiers and plot attacks against a variety of targets in Damascus. And nothing whatsoever the Assad regime does will protect ordinary Syrians from terrorism.  Nothing, that is, short of an effort to draw Israel into the conflict in hopes of generating a groundswell of popular support for its cause across the Muslim world.

"Whatever means necessary, short of foreign troops on the ground" includes extensive use of killer drones. 

7. Our motives in Syria are pure, our near genocides irrelevant
 People should not ask about the difference between
our support for Bahrain and Russia’s support for Syria.
A.M. Slaughter: Proposing this type of action would force the Russian and Chinese governments to come clean about the real motives for their positions. Even if Libya had never happened, would Russia really be willing to allow intervention in Syria? Assad would still be one of Moscow’s principal allies in the Middle East. Russia would still have port facilities at Tartus. It would still want to protect the principle that a govt can suppress popular demonstrations by any means it chooses, including the kinds of crimes against humanity, indeed near-genocide, that Vladi­mir Putin ordered in Chechnya at the turn of the century.
Fear Dept: Russia must “come clean” about their “real motives” for backing Assad. Of course, we have no obligation to explain why we’re selling a shitload of arms to Bahrain. Don't ask about the difference between our support for Bahrain and Russia’s support for Syria.  The department has a God-given right to defend the territorial integrity of our protest-stricken undemocratic client states.  Unlike in Syria, the protesters in Bahrain are peaceful. They have not taken up arms against the monarchy. We will go all-out to support heavily armed rebels (Libya, Syria), but the support we offer peaceful demonstrators is either stingy (Egypt, Yemen) or nonexistent (Bahrain, OWS).

Anne-Marie Slaughter recognizes that the “near genocide” that “Vladi­mir Putin ordered in Chechnya” is relevant to the debate about U.S. led military action against Syria, whereas more recent “near genocides” in Mesopotamia are not. For example, it would have been entirely inappropriate for Slaughter to have mentioned the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died "at the turn of the century" as a result of UN-imposed sanctions. It would have been equally inappropriate for Slaughter to have mentioned the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died as a direct result of our invasion of Iraq. Slaughter realizes our own "near genocides" in the Middle East are less relevant than Putin's in Central Asia.

1 comment:

  1. The bottom line here is the best person to trust is yourself. When dealing with others, it will pay to be prepared for the worst. I just hope Syrians have their supply caches, shelters, and philippine prudential plans ready.


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