I think that we are now closer to what our policy ought to be than we were roughly two years ago. I was totally perplexed when President Obama announced sometime in late 2011 that Assad has to go. First of all, it wasn’t clear to me why should we be dictating his departure, and I didn’t see in Syria anything like the Arab Spring in Egypt or elsewhere. It was more a matter of an externally supported sectarian war — I repeat, sectarian. Not democratic but sectarian — Sunnis against Shiites. And I also didn’t sense that when the president said that, that Assad has to go, that there was anything behind those words. And as a result I think our policy contributed to greater chaos in Syria, then to the appearance on the scene of groups very hostile to us, as well as some groups friendly to us that oppose Assad but who are the weakest among all of the opposition groupings. So it became a policy that, in my judgment, was self-defeating, and I’m glad that we’re now on a path in which perhaps we can work this out by a negotiating process in which, in addition to our friends the Europeans, the Russians will also be involved, and perhaps, up to a point, the Chinese, and perhaps we’ll even talk a little bit about it with the Iranians. And that’s, I think, the right way to go.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Al Jazeera, 22 November 2013
Russia, like any other nations, protects its geo-political interests and it has drawn the line in Syria. This is the main reason why the United States and its allies have “unpredictably” changed their minds about bombing Syria. That about-face intimates that greater interests and powers govern the fate of this planet than the ones we are aware of.
A portion of the Western establishment knows perfectly well that the economic and social costs of a military confrontation with Russia (and Iran, and China) far exceed the foreseeable benefits. Although the aims of the Obama administration may not appear markedly different from those of the preceding neocon administration – the preservation of American world supremacy –, the means, after the disastrous and unaffordable adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan, have changed. Direct military interventions have become the last resort.
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, we can only hope that the age of insanity is coming to an end, that the old is dissolving, as it is unsustainable on every front.
Not that, admittedly, there is any reason to expect a veritable turnaround any time soon.
In a London Review of Books article, Pulitzer Prize – winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersch has brought us back to the harsh reality of our time: “A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam”.
It is high time that the so-called “democratic world” led by example and ceases to finance and arm fundamentalists mercenaries and autocratic regimes in the Arab world and in Africa, for this can only escalate the cycle of violence.
We now know the truth about the manufactured ‘evidence’ regarding the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A January 2014 MIT report has ruled out the involvement of the Syrian army in the use of chemical weapons in the infamous massacre of East Ghouta. In its conclusions it has, most charitably, blamed “mistaken intelligence”, adding that “if the source of these errors is not identified, the procedures that led to this intelligence failure will go uncorrected, and the chances of a future policy disaster will grow with certainty”.
We also know that bombing Libya and murdering Gaddafi has only brought about anarchy and much more violence and misery than anyone could have foreseen. A relatively wealthy nation is now on the brink of bankruptcy.
Far from solving the problems, Western intervention has made things far worse. As a consequence, European and North American public opinions are massively against throwing our military weight around on highly dubious grounds. Citizens are no longer prone to submissive acceptance of the “official truths” of their governments. They are far more open to the idea that contrary opinions deserve a serious appraisal, especially when it is not at all clear whether our actions will do more harm than good, as it is almost always the case in civil wars.
Even the representative of the moderate opposition know that, in a post-Assad Syria, they would be pulverized by jihadists set on imposing Sharia law in a secular state. The obsessive request for regime change at any cost cannot possibly be made on humanitarian grounds, not if the result would be another country overrun by armed rival gangs of hard-core Islamists, arm and drug dealers, loyalists, bandits and terrorists, our enemies in the so-called “war on terror”. We have seen how looted weapons and ethnic cleansing have become two of the major Libyan exports.
Ultimately, prior to any binding decision, our representatives should ask themselves the following questions: (a) our actions will improve the situation on the ground? (b) the people we intend to help might, later on, turn against us? (c) if the faction we support should win the conflict, is it going to improve conditions for most of the population? (d) Is there an objective risk of an escalation pointing towards a wider war?
I believe that we should all reasonably agree that the only solution is a diplomatic solution, that is to say, a political settlement following a partial ceasefire in Aleppo which should not require the removal of Assad.
The question of the future leadership of Syria, in the absence of a credible alternative to the current establishment, must not become a weapon in the hands of those who have no interest in putting a stop to the killings.