Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Illegal, Immoral, and Dangerous

Thanks to Feminist Peace Network on Facebook for sharing this careful analysis by Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies on why a US missile attack on Syria would be not only wrong, but stupid. As Bennis notes:
A US military strike on Syria will increase levels of violence and instability inside the country, in the region, and around the world. Inside Syria, aside from immediate casualties and damage to the already shattered country, reports are already coming in of thousands of Syrian refugees returning from Lebanon to "stand with their government" when the country is under attack. It could lead to greater support to the brutal regime in Damascus. In Kosovo, more Kosovars were forcibly expelled from their homes by the Serbian regime after the NATO bombing began than had happened before it started; Syrian civilians could face similar retaliation from the government.

A US strike will do nothing to strengthen the secular armed opposition, still largely based in Turkey and Jordan, let alone the heroic but weakened original non-violent democratic opposition forces who have consistently opposed militarization of their struggle and outside military intervention. Those who gain will be the most extreme Islamist forces within the opposition, particularly those such as the Jubhat al-Nusra which are closest to al-Qaeda. They have long seen the US presence in the region as a key recruitment tool and a great local target.

There is also the danger of escalation between the US and Russia, already at odds in one of the five wars currently underway in Syria. So far that has been limited to a war of words between Washington and Moscow, but with the G-20 meeting scheduled for next week in St Petersburg, President Putin may feel compelled to push back more directly, perhaps with new economic or other measures.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

US not morally superior to Syria

Over on Truthdig, Juan Cole makes a cogent argument for why diplomacy, not cruise missiles, are the best tool for defusing the Syrian crisis. For instance:
I am not arguing that because the United States and its allies have indiscriminately killed large numbers of innocent noncombatants in the past, the Syrian government should be held harmless for its own gas attack at Ghouta, which killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Two wrongs never make a right. I am arguing that the United States is in no moral or legal position to play the Lone Ranger here. The first steps Washington should take are to acknowledge its own implication in such atrocities and to finish destroying its chemical stockpiles and join the ban on land mines and cluster bombs.

Now that we’re in the 21st century, moreover, it is time to cease using the supposedly macho language of violence in response to political challenges. Tossing a couple of Tomahawk cruise missiles on a few government facilities in Damascus is not going to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, and it will not affect the course of the war. Sonni Efron, a former State Department official and now a senior government fellow at Human Rights First, has argued that the United States and Europe could have a much more effective impact by announcing that in response to the Baath provocation they were going to close the loopholes that allow Syrian banks to continue to interface with world financial institutions. This strategy would involve threatening third-party sanctions on Russian banks that provide Damascus with a financial backdoor. A united U.S.-EU push on this front would be far more consequential for the Syrian government than a limited military strike.