Springtime Means Wartime

by lizard

US Foreign policy escapes significant scrutiny here in The Homeland partly because Americans are incredibly ignorant of the world outside our borders. For example, when the ethnicity of the suspects in the Boston marathon bombing became known—Chechen—the resulting confusion between Chechnya and the Czech Republic elicited this statement from the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, which includes this:

As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities – the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

Springtime in America can be unpleasant, but in Afghanistan spring is literally the season of Taliban offensives, and this year even more is at stake:

KABUL — It didn’t take long. Within hours of announcing the start of its annual spring offensive, the Taliban in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for an early-morning attack in the eastern part of the country that killed at least three police officers.

“In addition to suicide bombings, insurgents warned of coordinating ‘insider’ attacks against ‘foreign transgressors’,” the Taliban said in a statement on Sunday.

The Taliban, known for employing bombastic language in describing its achievements–claims frequently invalidated or unproven–hailed the 2013 spring offensive as “monumental.”

This year, the Taliban’s annual declaration of increased violence–coinciding with the break from harsh winter weather–is widely considered an especially crucial test for President Hamid Karzai’s government as it prepares to assume control of the nation’s security from coalition forces, which are slated to withdraw combat troops in 2014.

As big footprint, Bush-initiated wars wind down, low-casualty (for Americans), NATO-cover regime-change wars continue under Obama.

Syria would have been a done deal by now if it wasn’t for that Russian and Chinese Security Council veto. By done deal, I mean the replication of what happened to Libya: a PR “humanitarian intervention” campaign led by NATO.

I wrote this post last March, and opened with this:

For those who supported the “humanitarian intervention” imposed on Libya by NATO, it must be asked what responsibilities should the nations that provided the planes and bombs have post-intervention? Is there any sense of obligation from those who advocate the toppling of repressive regimes to ensure the power vacuum doesn’t get filled with equally oppressive violators of human rights? Otherwise, what the hell is the point of intervening?

If you read that post, I go on to explore the seams of the propaganda campaign against Syria. The initial framing of a populist Syrian uprising against Assad proved to be an unsustainable narrative, though not completely without merit. To highlight the shift in coverage, this NYT article, titled Islamist Rebels’ Create Dilemma on Syria Policy, is finally getting closer to the real dynamics developing in Syria:

CAIRO — In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce.

Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.

Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.

This is the landscape President Obama confronts as he considers how to respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” he had set. More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.

Chuck Hagel, in statements reported on last December, had this to say in regards to a Syrian intervention:

“I think we’ve got to be very wise and careful on this and continue to work with the multilateral institutions in the lead in Syria. I don’t think America wants to be in the lead on this,” he said. “What you have to do is manage the problem. You manage it to a higher ground of possible solutions, ultimately to try to get to a resolution. You don’t have control over what’s going on in Syria.”

“You’ve got to be patient, smart, wise, manage the problem,” he said.

The Obama administration has resisted intervention in Syria based on the risk that arming the opposition directly could fuel the fire and out of concern that establishing a no-fly zone would require a major U.S. commitment with uncertain results.

A major U.S. commitment with uncertain results is what Obama has put into motion with his RED LINE ultimatum. More blood to bathe his Nobel Prize in, I guess.

Chris Hedges has a column up this month, titled The Hijacking of Human Rights, and it speaks directly to the transformation of human rights organizations into vehicles of pro-war propaganda:

The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel’s appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those—especially Muslims—branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.

Nossel, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under Hillary Clinton in a State Department that was little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon, is part of the new wave of “humanitarian interventionists,” such as Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff and Susan Rice, who naively see in the U.S. military a vehicle to create a better world. They know little of the reality of war or the actual inner workings of empire. They harbor a childish belief in the innate goodness and ultimate beneficence of American power. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, the horrendous suffering and violent terror inflicted in the name of their utopian goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, barely register on their moral calculus. This makes them at once oblivious and dangerous. “Innocence is a kind of insanity,” Graham Greene wrote in his novel “The Quiet American,” and those who destroy to build are “impregnably armored by … good intentions and … ignorance.”

Deescalation, Diplomacy, these are not terms we will hear. My bet is we will hear plenty about red lines. And soil samples.

  1. Thanks for reminding us all of what’s going on outside of the homeland. Although – I read this with a heavy heart as my son will deploy to one of these areas in a couple weeks. These events are of immediate attention for some of us – I certainly wish it would be that way for more of us.

    • lizard19

      thank you for commenting, and I hope your son returns safe from his deployment.

      I had the pleasure of talking to a young vet last November before the elections because he was out knocking doors. he asked me what issues mattered to me, and was actually surprised when I said foreign policy. he said that was not a common answer, and after our conversation, he thanked me for being informed.

      really, being informed about why our country wages war is the least I can do, as a civilian.

      • Here’s a link that might be of interest to you: http://www.cnas.org/ – Center for a New American Security. I asked around for a news/policy source for foreign/military affairs that is not overly biased (keep in mind that I was asking ex-military officers) and this is what I came up with. There are some interesting policy papers posted on the Center’s web site. John Nagle is the person on the Center’s staff that I was pointed toward for his policy assessments.

  2. Pete Talbot

    First, geolwh11, godspeed to your son’s safe return home.

    And, liz, not much to add to your post except for a New Yorker article I just read about Aleppo, Syria.


    Unfortunately, you have to have a subscription to read the whole story online, but even the tease they give you on their website is heart wrenching.

    Can you imagine Protestant snipers on the Wilma Building and Catholic snipers on the Montaigne apartment building, on the other side of the Clark Fork, plinking away at those crossing back-and-forth on the Higgins Street Bridge and then dumping the bodies in the River? By the hundreds?

    I have no answers, nor does our government, nor, really, anyone else it seems. The U.S. has botched most of its dealings in the Middle East. One can hope that we avoid the same mistakes in Syria.

  3. Big Swede

    Maybe he should just pack up and go home.

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