Take the situation in Syria and the latest pronouncements from the Obama administration about the "moral case" for U.S. attack on Syria. This gives rise to choruses of "we can't just stand by!"
Greenwald gave an outstanding talk in Chicago in May, 2012, in which he went through example after example in 20th century history and concluded (as closely as I can remember) with these words:
"The US -- no, everybody -- always says the reason for military intervention is 'humanitarian.' But since they always use the modifier 'humanitarian,' in fact the word 'humanitarian' here conveys no information. 'Humanitarian war' is not a subset of war; it is a synonym for war."(Watch the talk yourself: The fraud of “humanitarian wars”: All wars, even the most unjustifiably aggressive, are wrapped in the same pretty rhetorical packaging .)
When it comes to buying what the U.S. is selling, buyer beware . . . .
(1) There is a humanitarian crisis in Syria
|Zaatari refugee camp, on the Syria-Jordan border|
The question we should be asking is, "How can we contribute to alleviating the suffering of the people in the refugee camps on the borders of Syria?" and "How can we contribute to a reduction in the fighting?"
Is it simplistic to ask: isn't there a need for us to contribute money, food, and staff?
(2) Less violence needed, not more
|Logo of the Chicago-based|
Ceasefire violence interruption project.
Given the nature of the crisis, the one thing that is not needed right now is more violence.
Experts on violence are coming to understand that the way to interrupt a pattern of violence lies in convincing people who are in conflict not to do the next violent act. It takes a lot of work, it is difficult and risky. But the most counter-productive thing is to try to use violent force to "compel" someone to stop using violence.
(Read more about the public health approach to ending violence. There is a growing movement toward using this approach in settings large as well as small.)
(3) An attack would help . . . how?
In light of the above points, there is no circumstance in which a resort to violent force by the United States is desirable (and certainly not anything that has been used as a pretext so far).
|U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile|
(Notably, as it did with the attack on Libya, the Obama administration seems determined to sidestep the U.S. Congress on this act of war, too. Hence, the Speaker of the House's statement that, "before any action is taken there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability." Compared to Barack Obama, even John Boehner sounds like a statesman.)
(4) "Law? We don't need no stinkin' LAW!"
The UN is the proper forum for dealing with the developments in Syria -- not a separate "coalition."
I was shocked today to see the New York Times editorialize that the U.S. could "assemble an ad hoc international coalition to support military action that would provide legitimacy, if not strict legal justification, for intervening . . . ."
|Obama and advisers follow reports of the clandestine U.S.|
mission to assassinate Osama Bin Laden.
Ironically, the U.S. is facing, at this very minute, legal action under international law by several arms of the UN for U.S. extrajudicial executions using drones as well as other crimes.
If the U.S. was serious about justice, it would support the processes of the United Nations and other legally authorized bodies.
(5) Um ... is there something else going on here?
Any move by the U.S. (or anyone else) to move precipitously or to resort to force invites the question: what are their real motives? Why are they going about this the wrong way?
Let's face it: U.S. credibility is pretty low. Conflict in Iran? CIA. Conflict in Afghanistan? CIA. Drones strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia . . . . And on and on and on.
|U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since WWII|
No critical observer can deny that the U.S. has an addiction to armed conflict, especially in the Middle East. Is Syria just the flavor of the week for U.S. permawar?
(See AFRICOM: The Heart of Darkness)
(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )
(See Syria: Where Have We Ended Up?)