Contra Syria Attack

30 Aug

At this stage Informed opinion agrees that the response to the presumed Assad regime’s responsibility for the use on August 21st of chemical weapons in Ghuta, a neighborhood in the eastern surrounding suburbs of Damascus, is intended to be punitive. This is a way of signaling that it is a punishment for the alleged use of chemical weapons, and at the same time denies any ambition to alter the course of the internal struggle for power in Syria or to assassinate Bashar el-Assad. Of course, if it achieved some larger goal unexpectedly this would likely be welcomed, although not necessarily, by such convergent  centers of concern on Syrian policy as Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv.

Why not necessarily? Because there is a growing belief in influential Western circles, highlighted in a cynical article by Edward Luttwak published a few days ago in the NY Times, [“In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins,” Aug. 24, 2013] that it is better for the United States and Israel if the civil war goes on and on, and there are no winners. Accorded to this warped reasoning, if Assad wins, it would produce significant regional gains for Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah; if the Syrian Free Army, and its Nusra Front and Al Qaeda allies win, it is feared that it would give violent extremist forces a base of operations that would likely work strongly against Western interests. Only Turkey, the frontline opponent of the Assad regime, and Saudi Arabia, the regional champion of Sunni sectarianism, stand to gain by resolving the conflict in favor of the Sunni-led opposition forces as that would both contribute, as Ankara and Riyadh see it, to greater regional stability, augment their preferred sectarian alignment, and inflict a major setback on Iran and Russia.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are split on whether it matters that upon the fall of Assad, a regime would be defeated that has repeatedly committed crimes against humanity in waging a war against its own people. Their contradictory responses to the el-Sisi coup and massacres in Egypt are illuminating on this score: Turkey adhered to principle despite a sacrifice of its short-term material and political interests in the Middle East, while Saudi Arabia has rushed in to provide Cairo with massive economic assistance and a show of strong diplomatic support for a military takeover that is crushing the leading Muslim political organization in the country.

Another way of thinking about the grand strategy of the United States in the Middle East after the dust from the Arab Spring began to settle in the region is suggested by the noted Israeli peace activist and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery [“Poor Obama,” August 31, 2013]: the U.S. Government at work frantically behind the scenes to restore the function of governance to military dictators, with Egypt the new poster child. Avnery attributes these Machiavellian machinations to CIA masterminds swimming in dark waters, entrapping Obama by overriding his strong rhetorical support for democracy in the Arab world, articulated in his Cairo speech back in 2009.

The rationale for an American-led attack on Syria is mostly expressed as follows:

–America’s credibility is at stake after Obama ‘red line’ was crossed by launching a large-scale lethal chemical weapons attack; doing nothing in response would undermine U.S. global leadership;

–America’s credibility makes indispensable and irreplaceable contributions to world order, and should not jeopardized by continued passivity in relation to the criminal conduct of the Assad regime; inaction has been tried for the past two years and failed miserably [not clearly tried—Hilary Clinton was avowed early supporter of rebel cause, including arms supplies; recent reports indicate American led ‘special forces operations’ being conducted to bolster anti-Assad struggle];

–a punitive strike will deter future uses of chemical weapons by Syria and others, teaching Assad and other leaders that serious adverse consequences follow upon a failure to heed warnings posted by an American president in the form of ‘red lines;’

–even if the attack will not shift the balance in Syria back to the insurgent forces it will restore their political will to persist in the struggle for an eventual political victory over Assad and operate to offset their recently weakened position;

–it is possible that the attack will unexpectedly enhance prospects for a diplomatic compromise, allowing a reconvening of the U.S.-Russia chaired Geneva diplomatic conference, which is the preferred forum for promoting transition to a post-Assad Syria.

Why is this rationale insufficient?

–it does not take account of the fact that a punitive attack of the kind evidently being planned by Washington lacks any foundation in international law as it is neither undertaken in self-defense, nor after authorization by the UN Security Council, nor in a manner that can be justified as humanitarian intervention (in fact, innocent Syrian civilians are almost certain to loom large among the casualties);

–it presupposes that the U.S. Government rightfully exercises police powers on the global stage, and by unilateral (or ‘coalition of the willing’) decision, can give legitimacy to an other unlawful undertaking; it may be that the United States remains the dominant hard power political actor in the region and world, but its war making since Vietnam is inconsistent with the global public good, causing massive suffering and widespread devastation; international law and the UNSC are preferable sources of global police power than is reliance on the discretion and leadership of the United States at this stage of world history even if this results in occasional paralysis as evidenced by the UN’s failure to produce a consensus on how to end the war in Syria;

–U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama has similarities to that of George W. Bush in relation to international law, despite differences in rhetoric and style: Obama evades the constraints of international law by the practice of ‘reverential interpretations,’ while Bush defied as matter of national self-assertion and the meta-norms of grand strategy; as a result Obama comes off  as a hypocrite while Bush as an outlaw or cowboy; in an ideal form of global law both would be held accountable for their violations of international criminal law;

–the impacts of a punitive strike could generate harmful results: weakening diplomatic prospects; increasing spillover effects on Lebanon, Turkey, elsewhere; complicating relations with Iran and Russia; producing retaliatory responses that widen the combat zone; causing a worldwide rise in anti-Americanism.

There is one conceptual issue that deserves further attention. In the aftermath of the Kosovo NATO War of 1999 there was developed by the Independent International Commission the argument that the military attack was ‘illegal but legitimate.’[1] The argument made at the time was that the obstacles to a lawful use of force could not be overcome because the use of force was non-defensive and not authorized by the Security Council. The use of force was evaluated as legitimate because of compelling moral reasons (imminent threat of humanitarian catastrophe; regional European consensus; overwhelming Kosovar political consensus—except small Serbian minority) relating to self-determination; Serb record of criminality in Bosnia and Kosovo) coupled with considerations of political feasibility (NATO capabilities and political will; a clear and attainable objective—withdrawal of Serb administrative and political control—that was achieved). Such claims were also subject to harsh criticism as exhibiting double standards (why not Palestine?) and a display of what Noam Chomsky dubbed as ‘military humanism.’

None of these Kosovo elements are present in relation to Syria: it is manifestly unlawful and also illegitimate (the attack will harm innocent Syrians without achieving proportionate political ends benefitting their wellbeing; the principal justifications for using force relate to geopolitical concerns such as ‘credibility,’ ‘deterrence,’ and ‘U.S. leadership.’ [For an intelligent counter-argument contending that an attack on Syria at this time would be ‘illegal but legitimate,’ see Ian Hurd, "Bomb Syria, Even if it is Illegal," NY Times, August 27, 2013; also “Saving Syria, International Law is not the answer,” Aljazeera, August 27, 2013]

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20 Responses to “Contra Syria Attack”

  1. Gene Schulman August 30, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    It is interesting that the British Parliament voted not to join the “coalition of the willing”, but France’s President Hollande declared they will not be stopped from acting unilaterally, and Obama acts “confused.”

    I think Dianne Johnstone gave the best analysis in comparing this to the Balkan war at http://www.counterpunch.org the other day. I was glad to see you making the same comparison.

    It would be nice if the US Congress could come to the same conclusions as the Brits, but that might be asking too much. Poor Syria.

  2. john francis lee August 30, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    “Informed opinion agrees that the response to the presumed Assad regime’s responsibility for the use on August 21st of chemical weapons in Ghuta … ”

    Does ‘informed opinion’ agree that said chemical weapons were used by Assad ? Or does it agree that it was more likely by Reagan’s – I mean Obama’s – Contras who used them ?

    A look at the headlines from Iraq any day over the last month and more ‘validates’ Edward Luttwak’s cynical view : it seems clear at this point that ALL the US neo-con invasions of Islamic nations were meant to produce devastated Islamic nations and – literally – no winners.

    Not only is Obama’s war on Syria against international law, it is illegal by domestic law : it is unconstitutional… I have that on the best authority.

    After reading Diana Johnstone’s article on Obama’s Contra War in Syria I followed up on Ian Brownlie’s Memorandum and, although I am not a lawyer, found that to be a devasting argument against the ‘legality’ or ‘illegal-legitimacy’ of any ‘humanitarian wars’.

    The New York Times’ Op-Ed stated their neo-con position clearly : Bomb Syria, even if it is illegal.

    No one cares about law any more. We’re bombed ourselves back to the stoneage.

    Thanks very much for taking the time to share your informed opinion with us all. I look forward to your postings.

    Your emphasis this time on the parallels between Ronald Reagan’s proxy Contra wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador and Obama’s proxy Contra wars in Egypt and Syria brings a new historic dimension to the latter. The more things ‘change’ the more they stay the same … or is it regress.

    Reagan was stopped by international law, wasn’t he ? Of course that was just ‘the law’, and, American presidents being above any mere law, his … or George XLI’s … weapons sales to the Iranians to counter his corresponding chemical weapons sold to Saddam Hussein together with narcotics sales to Americans on the street of California allowed him/them to continue to fund their Contra war.

    Wonder what Obama will sell to whom if his line of funding were cut off by Congress ? I suppose it’s extremely unlikely that the US/Israeli Congress will ‘unfund’ any wars against Muslims, though. At any rate … thanks again. I do appreciate your insights … and your backbone in standing up to all the abuse thrown at truth-tellers on … any subject these days.

  3. sudhan August 30, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    Nasir Khan:

    The real objectives of President Obama proposed use of cruise missile attacks on Syria are not the same which he declares openly. His administration has far more sinister aims in sight to pacify that include the American War Mafia, Israeli leaders and Arab reactionary regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

    Now another big danger for the world of such a military aggression lies in the unpredictable consequences for the region and possibly the whole world. In fact, the pre-war scenario of the 1914 is in place and very easily American imperialism can ignite the flames of world war. We see a real danger of this because of the reckless militarism of American ruling class.

    One essential thing any warmongering power such as America does is to prepare domestic and world public opinion, a task not difficult for the American rulers because of the enormous propaganda they use to cover up their designs and deceive all and sundry. Syria is already in the throes of a bitter civil war and the last thing Syrian people want is a further escalation of the conflict. We should always keep in mind that American imperialists are not the friends of the Syrian people and they are not interested in any transition to any democratic rule in that county where the entrenched Assad regime and multifarious opposition forces with different political agendas are causing havoc and both sides are killing each other and innocent people.

    We who stand for peace should use all all our resources to counter American war plans and its deceptive propaganda.

  4. calli August 30, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Starts with opinion?, presumed?

    • Kata Fisher August 30, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Meaning?

      What can I say? “What is the type of argument would you like to look at?” Do you want that which is Scriptural—or that which is Scientific? Either? Not Either. I start with scientific precept: what is the truth objective—or the truth—that which is established.

      “I can do both, but I am very stingy when comes to my time. I do not put my time to waste: I only do that which is right. Depend on the Law International—that which is appointed. This is doing that which is right.” (Mind boggling).

      One cannot be betwixt that which is moral (in their opinion)—that which is legal by a moral standard, and that which is legal by the Law that is appointed, so to uphold the moral standards when there is none. Excluding all errors possible in an approach to the action to a corporate undertakings—a valid decision making approach. That is, we look at that which is based on the leadership style and ethics, alone.

      What is unethical, so to believe it is to be the right thing to do? I cannot drop mocking; it is deeply rooted in my nature: I am Church Charismatic.

      The Law: would you look at Scriptural description of a hypocrite—a topic based on a lyric of Psalms? Yes—or not? Sure, why not?

      What is a precept of a hypocrite? In fact, this would be the one who cannot learn by any Law that is appointed. Why?

  5. Albert August 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Assad is smart enough to know, that he would commit suicide by using chemical weapons and moreover, why would he? He clearly had the overhand in that war. So the logical conclusion we can draw here is, that it is another red flag operation.
    As was amply proven in WWI, it can backfire and hurt the side of the party using it. Unless of course you use it, like the US did over Vietnam with the napalm, in Iraq with DU, or Israel did on Gaza with the white phosphor in ‘cast lead’.
    If we search for a common denominator in all the countries, that are called terrorists or enemy of the US, one item stands out and that is, that none of those countries have a central bank, that is under the control of the privately owned international bankers. The first major change made in Libya, while the fighting was still going on, was the creation of a central bank, controlled by the international bankers. I also read, that Putin has paid off Russia`s debt to that ‘consortium’ .
    When I googled for JFK and the federal reserve, I came upon the following link:
    http://rense.com/general76/jfkvs.htm
    From it we can draw certain conclusions, that do not shine a favorable light onto the international bankers.
    “causing a worldwide rise in anti-Americanism”? That is like trying to add water to a full bucket. One has to be delusional to think, that America has any true friends left. It seems, that even the majority of its own population is against their government, safe for a small (but still too large) group of Christian fundamentalists, selling out their own religion.
    Kissinger is alleged to have said once, that it is more dangerous to be America`s friend than its enemy, and that observation seems to merit serious contemplation.

    • Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      What is the role of the World Bank? Can the World Bank neutralize and override unconstitutional banking system here in US and elsewhere—or they are ensnared to that system as an institution, as well? It seems that John F. Kennedy wanted to cut of those people (Illuminates?) when he did what he did with that executive order.

      It seems that Gaddafi was trying to do similar for Libya, and suggested banking and currency based on gold value, same –or precisely the same as that which John F. Kennedy was doing. If, that is why Kennedy was killed, in fact–they will be cut off.

      By Faith,
      K.F.

    • Kata Fisher August 31, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      I came across similar information about fraudulency of the Banking system; just by coincidence on Yor Tube that was showing how illuminates flush cash to themselves with the banking system:

      You will see illusionary and music in background in the video. (When I watched this I was catatonic). It is very demonic. It is illuminati training/informative video.

      By Faith,
      K.F.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  9. Contra Syria Attack | maraahmed.com - September 2, 2013

    […] Richard Falk: Informed opinion agrees that the response to the presumed Assad regime’s responsibility for the use on August 21st of chemical weapons in Ghuta, a neighborhood in the eastern surrounding suburbs of Damascus, is intended to be punitive. This is a way of signaling that it is a punishment for the use of chemical weapons that does not have the ambition of altering the course of the internal struggle for power in Syria or seeking to decapitate Bashar el-Assad. Of course, if it achieved some larger goal unexpectedly this would likely be welcomed, although not necessarily, by such convergent centers of concern on Syrian policy as Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Why not necessarily? Because there is a growing belief in influential Western circles, highlighted in a cynical article by Edward Luttwak published a few days ago in the NY Times, [“In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins,” Aug. 24, 2013] that it is better for the United States and Israel if the civil war goes on and on, and there are no winners. Accorded to this warped reasoning, if Assad wins, it would produce significant regional gains for Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah; if the Syrian Free Army, and its Nusra Front and Al Qaeda allies win, it is feared that it would give violent extremist forces a base of operations that would likely work strongly against Western interests. Only Turkey, the frontline opponent of the Assad regime, and Saudi Arabia, the regional champion of Sunni sectarianism, stand to gain by resolving the conflict in favor of the Sunni-led opposition forces as that would both contribute, as Ankara and Riyadh see it, to greater regional stability, augment their preferred sectarian alignment, and inflict a major setback on Iran and Russia. More here. […]

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