US Bombing Will Prolong War, Reasons Against US Military Intervention, US Already Involved
- A US Attack on Syria Will Prolong the War - Juan Cole
- Three Reasons Against US Military Intervention in Syria - H Patricia Hynes
- 9 Ways America Has Fueled the Bloody Civil War in Syria - Nicolas J.S. Davies
by Juan Cole
September 4, 2013
The struggle in Syria began peacefully in spring of 2011, but after about half a year it turned violent when the regime deployed tanks and other heavy munitions against the protesters. Some of the latter took up weapons and turned to violence in revenge. Thereafter the struggle spiraled into a civil war, in which the regime showed itself perfectly willing to attack civilian city quarters and kill indiscriminately. The struggle has killed over 100,000 persons. As the regime became ever more brutal, the rebel fighters were increasingly radicalized. Now, among the more important groups is Jabhat al-Nusra or the Succor Front, a radical al-Qaeda affiliate.
President Obama's plan to bomb Syria with cruise missiles will do nothing to hasten the end of the conflict. Instead, it will likely prolong it.
It should be remembered that the US couldn't end the Iraqi civil war despite having over 100,000 boots on the ground in that country. It is highly unlikely that Washington can end this one from 30,000 feet.
The hope for avoiding another decade of killing is that the governmental elite and the rebels get tired of fighting and prove willing to make a deal. It is probably too late for Syria to succeed at the kind of transition achieved in Yemen. There, the president stepped down and his vice president ran for his seat. At the same time, members of the opposition were given seats in the cabinet. That kind of cohabitation with the former enemy is easier if too much blood hasn't bee shed.
The best solution for Syria would be if President Bashar al-Assad steps down and the Baath Party gave up its dictatorial tactics. At the same time, the rebels would have to forewswear al-Qaeda-type extremism.
Probably each side would have to feel that they could not gain any substantial benefit from further fighting, for negotiations to have prayer of success.
The prospect of a US missile strike is emboldening the rebels. They increasingly hope that the US will come in militarily with them.
the rebels don't look at the proposed US missile strikes as a limited affair or as solely related to chemical weapons use. Aside from al-Qaeda, they see the US as an ally. Thus, they are complaining that Obama's indecisiveness is emboldening Syrian President al-Assad. The US is now part of their strategic calculations and they see decisive American action as an asset.
Obviously, such euphoria at the prospect of US military intervention on the rebel side is incompatible with the kind of "pacted" transition political scientists favor. The rebels will have every incentive to hold out for ever more forceful outside Syria intervention in the coming years.
By striking Syria, Obama has all but guaranteed that a negotiated solution becomes impossible for years to come. In the absence of serious negotiations, the civil war will continue and likely get worse. The US should give serious thought to what the likely actual (as opposed to ideal) reaction in Syria will be to the landing of a few cruise missiles. The anti-regime elements will celebrate, convinced that it will all be over quickly if the US gets involved. The last thing they will want will be to negotiate with the regime.
H Patricia Hynes
September 5, 2013
Published by Portside
Fifty years after Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech - the inspired vision of an America of freedom and racial harmony, we are preparing to wage another war in the now-inflamed Middle East, this time against Syria. The "limited" Tomahawk Cruise missile strikes with "no boots on the ground" originally proposed by President Obama are quickly expanding to "boots on the ground if necessary" and "a broader strategy" to arm and strengthen opposition rebels. As the White House forcefully lobbies Congress for their approval for military action, we the people must parse the reasons why going to war against Syria is a moral and political failure. Among the multitude of reasons, here are three.
First, our three preceding wars during the last 12 years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya - all sold as quick, decisive victories relying on massive air assault - have left humanitarian disasters in those countries. Iraq is disintegrating with sectarian warfare; Afghanistan has a virulently corrupt government, with the Taliban intact and al-Qaeda having spread to the Middle East; and Libya is in chaos, with strengthened radical Islamist power. In July 2013, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey warned in a letter to the Senate Arms Committee regarding a missile attack on Syria, "Once we take [military] action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid." Who is listening?
Second, Washington's rush to war is based on circumstantial and vague evidence, evidence which has allegedly been bolstered, but which cannot be disclosed to the American public. Why? Fear of public opinion? For many citizens, this reeks of the Bush administration's multiple deceptions about alleged weapons of mass destruction that took us to war in Iraq, destroyed that country and left hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers injured for life.
Third, what possibly can be the "moral weight" of our air strike against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons against its people, when the United States has a long history of much more extensive and deadly use of chemical and radiological weapons in war? We used napalm, which burns through the skin to bone, in World War II. In Vietnam, American soldiers employed napalm and the dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange in Vietnam, for which there are millions of Vietnamese and American veteran victims. U.S. troops used white phosphorus, which burns human tissue like napalm and causes organ damage and death, in the 2004 battle of Falluja in Iraq. Depleted uranium-tipped bullets and armor piercing munitions, used by the U.S. and Britain in the 1991 Gulf War and more extensively in the 2003 Iraq war, have littered Iraq with radioactive waste. Since these wars, Iraqi children are now suffering extreme rates of hideous birth abnormalities, cancers and heart defects. Finally, our government gave technical assistance to Saddham Hussein in his use of mustard gas and nerve agents against Iran in the late 1980s.
Between military force and doing nothing, there are strategic choices. Many experienced policy, intelligence and military strategists have proposed alternatives to our government's headlong rush to war. Chief among them is that the House and Senate urge President Obama to engage in forceful diplomacy with Russia and all the regional countries and parties involved in the Syrian conflict, under the aegis of the UN, an effort that was tried and must be tried again. The principal goals would be an immediate ceasefire and the formation of an interim authority comprising representatives from Assad's Baath Party, the legitimate rebels and independent individuals. The interim authority would draft a new constitution providing for elections of Parliament followed by a presidential election. Hans Blix, the former UN-appointed weapons inspector in Iraq, adds that the countries supplying weapons, munitions and money to the Syrian rebels and to Syria have much leverage over the possibility of a ceasefire; and they must be part of securing it.
In the lifetimes of all living Americans, our history has been one of using armed force to resolve conflict, often in violation of international law and the UN Charter that requires UN Security Council authorization, except in self-defense. But this militaristic mode of winning peace has entailed destroying villages, towns, environments and people in other countries with horrific weapons "in order to save them." President Obama's path to war follows in this same rut, with no moral and political imagination. The funds that would be spent on Tomahawk Cruise missiles should be allocated to UN Syrian refugee programs, given the humanitarian crisis and the serious shortfall in monies pledged by our and other countries. The same energy going into strong arming Congress to agree to war should be spent on forceful diplomacy for a ceasefire.
[Pat Hynes chairs the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts. She is a retired Professor of Environmental Health from Boston University School of Public Health and author/editor of seven books.]
America has undermined opportunities for ceasefire in Syria and a peaceful political transition.
By Nicolas J.S. Davies
September 4, 2013
President Obama's threats against Syria are framed by the carefully crafted image of a responsible superpower reluctantly drawn into a horrific conflict caused by others. But the reality is very different.
For more than two years, U.S. policy has quietly fueled the escalation of the conflict in Syria and undermined every effort to bring the Syrian people the ceasefire and peaceful political transition they need and want. Whoever is directly responsible for hundreds of deaths in the latest alleged chemical weapons incident, the critical covert and diplomatic role the United States has played in a war that has killed at least 100,000 people means that their blood is also on our hands.
As Haytham Manna, a leader of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB) in Syria recently told Le Vif, the largest French language news magazine in Belgium, "The Americans have cheated. Two or three times they have withdrawn at the very moment that an agreement was in the works... Everything is possible but that will depend mainly on the Americans. The French are content to follow. A political solution is the only one that could save Syria."
So, if Manna is correct, we Americans have played a decisive role at the critical moments for war or peace in Syria, including the one we are now confronting. If it comes as a surprise to you as an American that you are responsible for the horrific nightmare taking place in Syria, please review the well-documented record of what has been done in your name, albeit secretly and without your knowledge in many cases:
1) As protests spread through the Arab world in 2011, the mostly leftist groups who organized the Arab Spring protests in Syria formed the NCB to coordinate peaceful protests and resistance to government repression. They agreed, and they still agree, on three basic principles: non-violence; non-sectarianism; and no foreign military intervention. But the U.S. and its allies marginalized the NCB, formed an unrepresentative "Syrian National Council" in Turkey as a government-in-exile and recruited, armed and trained violent armed groups to pursue regime change in Syria.
2) The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar began flying in fighters, weapons and equipment to turn the Syrian Spring into a bloody civil war. Once they had overthrown the government of Libya, at the cost of 25,000 to 50,000 lives, they began adapting the same strategy to Syria, despite knowing full well that this would be a much more drawn-out, destructive and bloody war.
3) Even as a Qatari-funded YouGov poll in December 2011 found that 55% of Syrians still supported their government, unmarked NATO planes were flying fighters and weapons from Libya to the "Free Syrian Army" base at Iskanderum in Turkey. British and French special forces were training FSA recruits, while the CIA and US special forces provided communications equipment and intelligence, as in Libya. Retired CIA officer Philip Giraldi concluded, "Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false."
4) Over the past two years, we have learned more about who is doing what in Syria. Anti-government sources acknowledged in June 2013 that 2,100 of the 16,700 rebel fighters killed so far in Syria were foreigners, while only 145 of 41,600 loyalists killed in action were foreign Hezbollah members.
5) Journalists in the Balkans have reported that wealthy Gulf Arab paymasters fund hundreds of hardened mercenaries from Croatia and elsewhere, who earn up to $2,000 per day as rebel snipers and special forces in Syria. Saudi Arabia has sent convicts to fight in Syria as an alternative to prison and funded shipments of weapons from Croatia to Jordan. Qatar has spent $3 billion to pay rebel fighters and ship at least 70 planeloads of weapons via Turkey.
6) On the diplomatic front, as Haytham Manna told Le Vif, the United States has played an equally insidious role. As Kofi Annan launched his peace plan in April 2012, the U.S. and its Western and Arab monarchist allies made sure that their Syrian proxies would not comply with the ceasefire by pledging unconditional political support, backed up by more weapons and generous funding.
7) The US joined France and its other allies at three Orwellian "Friends of Syria" meetings to launch what French officials referred to as a "Plan B", to escalate the war and undermine the Annan peace plan. At the second Friends of Syria meeting, nine days before Annan's ceasefire was due to take effect, the U.S. and its allies agreed to provide funds for the Free Syrian Army to pay its fighters, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged to increase their supply of weapons.
8) Annan finally assembled all the permanent members of the Security Council and other governments involved in the war in Syria in Geneva at the end of June 2012. The Western powers briefly dropped their previously non-negotiable demand to remove President Assad as the first step in a political transition, so that all sides could finally sign on to the Annan plan. But then the U.S. and its allies rejected a UN Security Council resolution to codify the agreement and revived their previous demands for Assad's removal.
9) In May 2013, after tens of thousands more Syrians had been killed, Secretary Kerry finally went to Moscow and agreed to renew the peace process begun in Geneva in June 2012. But since May, the United States has once again reneged on the Geneva agreement and chosen to escalate the war even further, by providing direct weapons shipments and now missile strikes to support its proxies in Syria.
So, far from being reluctantly dragged into a terrible conflict not of its own making, the United States and its allies have in fact followed a quite coherent policy of regime change, modeled roughly on their successful overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011. The main difference has been the absence of foreign air support for the Syrian rebels. In Libya, NATO conducted 7,700 air strikes, demolishing Libya's air defenses in the early stages of the campaign and thereafter bombing at will throughout the country. The fact that Syria possesses a far more extensive, modern, Russian-built air defense system has successfully deterred the West and its Arab royalist allies from following the same strategy in Syria.
Until now that is. The somewhat arbitrary "red line" regarding chemical weapons is serving as a pretext to launch missile strikes, degrade Syria's air defenses and expose it to future air strikes. While President Obama tries to assuage liberals with promises of limited and proportionate strikes, there has been a steady parade of hawkish Republicans emerging from closed door meetings at the White House reassured that, as the Guardian wrote on Tuesday, this is indeed "part of a broader strategy to topple Bashar al-Assad."
In fact, Obama admitted in /an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-… the Atlantic in March 2012 that his entire assault on Syria is itself part of a broader strategy to isolate Iran by destroying its strongest Arab ally. When asked what more the U.S. could do to topple Assad, Obama laughed and said, "Well, nothing that I can tell you, because your classified clearance isn't good enough."
But enough details have now emerged of the true contours of this policy to make his crocodile tears for alleged nerve agent victims seem grotesque. The atrocious position in which he has placed the American public in whose name he acts should spur outrage, at a political class who connive in such cynical and murderous policies; at commercial media who laugh all the way to the bank as they misinform and mislead us; and yes, at ourselves for being patsies for serial aggression and genocide, in Vietnam, Iraq and now Syria.
To paraphrase Mr. Obama speaking in Sweden on Wednesday, the world set a "red line" when the UN Charter prohibited the use of military force except in self defense or in legitimate collective security operations mandated by the UN Security Council. The US Senate set a "red line" when it ratified the UN Charter by 89 votes to 2. As Obama said, "The international community's credibility is on the line, and America and Congress's credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important." And when we are talking about war and peace, it is not just our credibility that is on the line, but the very nature of the world that we live in.
So please take a few minutes and call your "Representatives" in Congress to insist that they vote "No" on the authorization of U.S. aggression against Syria. Ask them instead to pass a resolution recommitting the United States to the June 2012 Geneva peace plan, which starts with a ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, including the United States.
[Nicolas J. S. Davies is author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on "Obama At War" for the just released book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama's First Term as a Progressive Leader.]