The Anti-Anti-War Left

by lizard

One of the more discouraging trends I see among politically active folks on the left is the slow disintegration of resistance to endless war.

It’s a powerful trend comprised of smart, well-intentioned people who for whatever reason seem to think America is actually capable of resolving armed conflicts around the world with bombs and other forms of military intervention.

In an article posted today, Jean Bricmont discusses the anti-anti-war left. It’s worth a full read, but for this post I think the following excerpt is worth highlighting:

Instead of calling for more and more interventions, we should demand of our governments the strict respect for international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and cooperation instead of confrontation. Non-interference means not only military non-intervention. It applies also to diplomatic and economic actions: no unilateral sanctions, no threats during negotiations, and equal treatment of all States. Instead of constantly “denouncing” the leaders of countries such as Russia, China, Iran, Cuba for violating human rights, something the anti-anti-war left loves to do, we should listen to what they have to say, dialogue with them, and help our fellow citizens understand the different ways of thinking in the world, including the criticisms that other countries can make of our way of doing things. Cultivating such mutual understanding could in the long run be the best way to improve “human rights” everywhere.

This would not bring instant solutions to human rights abuses or political conflicts in countries such as Libya or Syria. But what does? The policy of interference increases tensions and militarization in the world. The countries that feel targeted by that policy, and they are numerous, defend themselves however they can. The demonization campaigns prevent peaceful relations between peoples, cultural exchanges between citizens and, indirectly, the flourishing of the very liberal ideas that the advocates of interference claim to be promoting. Once the anti-anti-war left abandoned any alternative program, it in fact gave up the possibility of having the slightest influence over world affairs. It does not in reality “help the victims” as it claims. Except for destroying all resistance here to imperialism and war, it does nothing. The only ones who are really doing anything are in fact the succeeding U.S. administrations. Counting on them to care for the well-being of the world’s peoples is an attitude of total hopelessness.

The immediate need to protect civilians in war-zones is dire, and devastating to watch not happen. People are being brutalized across the globe, and it would be great if our tax-funded military strength could somehow be focused to righteously kill for the betterment of humanity.

But our tax-funded military strength cannot righteously kill for the betterment of humanity.

Interventionists: what would you have the US military and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar) do against Assad to end his bloody state crackdown on the forces fighting to overthrow him? Would you support Al-Qaeda?

I ran across this McClatchy piece via Zero Hedge:

When the group Jabhat al Nusra first claimed responsibility for car and suicide bombings in Damascus that killed dozens last January, many of Syria’s revolutionaries claimed that the organization was a creation of the Syrian government, designed to discredit those who opposed the regime of President Bashar Assad and to hide the regime’s own brutal tactics.

Nearly a year later, however, Jabhat al Nusra, which U.S. officials believe has links to al Qaida, has become essential to the frontline operations of the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

The prominence of Nusra in the rebel cause worries U.S. and other Western officials, who say its operations rely on the same people and tactics that fueled al Qaida in Iraq – an assertion that is borne out by interviews with Nusra members in Syria.

Among Nusra fighters are many Syrians who say they fought with al Qaida in Iraq, which waged a bloody and violent campaign against the U.S. presence in that country and is still blamed for suicide and car bombings that have killed hundreds of Iraqis since the U.S. troops left a year ago.

Nusra’s rise is most evident in Syria’s north and east, where anti-Assad forces have recently been racking up impressive military gains. Gone are the days just five months ago when Nusra’s actions seemed limited to car and suicide bombings. Now, Nusra fighters are organized in battalion-sized groups that are often armed with heavy weaponry.

“When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!” one Nusra fighter shouted in the northeastern Syrian city of Ras al Ayn when he was told an American journalist present. He laughed as he said it and then got into a van and drove off, leaving the journalist unable to ask whether it had been a joke.

Pointing this out does not make me pro-Assad and indifferent to civilians dying in the thousands. Their suffering is not something I can fathom.

That said, I still think escalating the Syrian conflict, whether through overt intervention, or (kinda) covert support of (kinda) Al-qaeda jihadists, is a bad idea.

Going back to Bricmont’s piece, I’ll conclude this post with the following (kinda) provocative statement:

What the anti-anti-war left has managed to accomplish is to destroy the sovereignty of Europeans in regard to the United States and to eliminate any independent left position concerning war and imperialism. It has also led most of the European left to adopt positions in total contradiction with those of the Latin American left and to consider as adversaries countries such as China and Russia which seek to defend international law, as indeed they should.

  1. Very good. Keep writing. People need to hear more of this…

  2. Bricmont may need to get up to speed. He seems to have difficulty accepting that capital and imperial power long ago shifted to a global platform that dominates and ignores nation states the way nation states used to ignore nationalist anti-war movements. The corrupt institutions of U.S. and Europe ceded sovereignty to global capital in the mid-1990s with NAFTA, GATT, and WTO. As we are currently mezmerized with the latest fake “economic” crisis, TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) secret negotiations move forward to complete the sweep. See:

    Empire is corporate and global.

  3. Big Swede

    Zero Hedge?

    Expanding your horizons?

  4. lizard19

    file this NYT piece under “duh”: Weapons Sent to Libyan Rebels with US Approval Fell into Islamists Hands.

    The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.

    The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers on the ground in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. They were “more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official.

  5. Oh lizard. A couple days ago you wanted the US to pressure Qatar to violate or overrule their own laws because we disagree with the results of their judicial system. Imprisoning people for free speech was out, international defense of human rights was in.

    But wait! Now we’re hearing that Leftists ought to be naturally aligned with China and Russia, the chief defenders of sovereignty and a nation’s right to define what human rights its citizens are entitled to without outside interference. I know I’m getting into a discussion here that’s not going to leave either of us happy, but it’s a contradiction that deserves pointing out.

    • lizard19

      oh Wolf. a couple days ago I daydreamed the US might direct its international meddling to keep a poet from prison for life. I’m sure, if given the chance, behind the scenes and shrouded from wikileaks, US diplomacy will use our billions of “aid” as leverage to free the poet.

      but wait! now you get to counter the non-demonizing of China and Russia with snark to gloss over the systemic, lethal violations of sovereignty by the US with drone strikes and arming Islamic jihadists!


      • That doesn’t really address the fact that you can’t decide whether other nations have the sovereign right to kill or imprison their citizens as they see fit without foreign diplomatic or economic intervention. That is the essence of sovereignty and international law which you are now strongly defending.

        I have a consistent position: sovereignty is a doctrine that effectively guarantees the ability of governments to kill their own people without fear of repercussions. Appeals to non-intervention under any circumstances are unconcerned with human rights – rather, they bear allegiance to a particular doctrine of foreign policy, pragmatic as all foreign policy doctrines are. However, in my opinion that particular isolationist doctrine has proven to be utterly inappropriate for a modern day world power for geopolitical as well as moral reasons.

        • lizard19

          yes, you consistently trust the US to be the moral arbiter of global affairs through humanitarian military interventions.

          it is looking more likely that you will get your military intervention in Syria. considering the US has already declared its policy is regime change, they might as well get it over with. NATO can come in and bomb the shit out of the Syrian army to give the jihadists the cover they need to overthrow Assad.

          then the US can move to the next target (Iran) and let Syria smolder until some Americans get killed from the blowback (like Libya).

          • Pete Talbot

            Question for y’all: what if Assad unleashes chemical and biological weapons on Syria’s “rebellious” population, killing thousands. Do we intervene? I don’t have an answer, just adding to the thread,

          • I don’t trust the US to be anything. I think the US is equally aberrant in inaction as in its foolish actions, and is clearly not an infallible arbiter of human rights. But I think that merely means we have to inform ourselves of the state of the world and work for US policy to reflect the best human rights circumstances throughout the world. That’s a little bit harder than spouting off about sovereignty and opposing all action by the US, but it’s more rational.

            Why? Because, while you insist you are not an isolationist, you are quoting an argument for total non-intervention, including diplomatic or economic intervention. However, when you include an insistence on non-intervention diplomatic or economic affairs, you’ve hit a conundrum. American refusal to trade with Cuba is clearly an interventionist action, and a foolish one, as far as I am concerned. However, our willingness to by buy oil from essentially anyone is an equally huge intervention. The largest economy in the world inevitably has a huge influence where it chooses to do business. There is a school of thought, which is generally far to the right of center, that geopolitics and human rights ought to be subservient to economics, and we should buy and sell with whoever offers the best prices, regardless of what they do with the money. I think a slightly more nuanced approach is in order, do you?

            Your argument style, however, is growing strange. My military intervention in Syria? When did I ever call for military intervention in Syria? Indeed, I have repeatedly argued that Syria is not susceptible to a ‘military solution’, that the right wing media continues to press for war when none is, as yet, advisable. And of course I’ve described attacking Iran as ‘the worst idea anyone’s had in a long time.” In the past decade, I’ve supported exactly one direct intervention – that hardly makes me a hawk. I just can’t handle your absurd hypocrisy about non-intervention in the affairs of our geopolitical rivals while at the same time condemning the US for not actively intervening in the affairs of our friends.

            • lizard19

              the excerpts I highlight in my posts are for readers consideration, and don’t necessarily reflect my own opinions.

              • I understand they do not reflect your opinion necessarily. I am still curious whether they do so incidentally, but perhaps you really don’t want to answer that. Though I don’t know why.

  6. lizard19

    Pete, I’ll respond down here.

    I don’t have any answers either, but I do have lots of skepticism about anonymous US officials citing the imminent use of chemical WMD’s. despite the demonizing campaign against the evil monster Assad, I still think he’s a rational authoritarian who wouldn’t do the one thing that will trigger a military response from NATO, but who knows what he’s really capable of.

    if that awful reality were to happen, the US will also be partly to blame.

    here are a few questions to ponder: will Al-qaeda be good stewards of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile? or will their presence in Syria necessitate an occupation of Syria by NATO forces to secure the chemical weapons? how many tens of thousands of troops will be required? the Pentagon thinks as many as 75,000 troops could be needed. which countries will put boots on the ground?

    lots of questions, no good answers. it’s an all-around terrible situation with innocent people dying from the atrocities being perpetrated by BOTH sides.

    • JC

      What i want to know is when is Hillary Clinton going to go to the U.N. and make the case for coalition action against Assad and his WMDs?

      Deja vu, anyone?

      • Pete Talbot

        Believe me, JC and liz, I’m not buying into the media’s or administration’s claims of Syria WMDs. But it’s possible so I’m just asking the question: when does the U.S. intervene? Iraq? Obviously wrong. The Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur? Just askin’.

        • JC

          Remember the story of Chicken Little, Pete? How can we play interventionist when our foreign policy has been polluted by corrupt intentions for decades?

          Sure, we could intervene at any time, but in the long run what good would it do? When’s the next shoe going to drop?

          As long as the U.S. exhibits neocon behavior (i.e. “preemptive strikes”) — and it still is under Obama/Clinton — any form of interventionism is nothing more than an extension of our quest for empire, and will be seen by other countries as such, and work to delegitimize any altruistic desires the citizens of this country may have.

          If we intervene in Syria, what’s next? Lebanon, Jordan? What we going to do when the only opposition in the middle east is Iran? When do we go there?

          Do we believe in self-determination, or is it always going to be “Father Knows Best”, John Wayne style diplomacy?

          And when you say “The Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur”, Pete, folks in the middle east are thinking “Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” How many hundreds of thousands of innocents have we killed in those three countries?

          We need an era of enlightened foreign policy. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. And definitely not from the likes of John Kerry or Susan Rice.

  7. What “fincal cliff?”

    The Senate unanimously passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a $631 billion military spending bill, with 98 votes in favor. The vote included a new round of sanctions against Iran, a permanent ban on transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, and continued funding for the occupation of Afghanistan.

    The Senate version also included the Feinstein Amendment, which will make it even easier for the military to capture and detain Americans.

    The House already passed a similar NDAA for $634 billion.

    Our war economy continues. Guns or butter? Any questions?

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