Emboldened by their victory in Libya, the U.S. and its NATO allies have shifted their attention away from Muammar Gaddafi to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Not content with regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has decided to co-opt the Arab Spring to pursue a policy of military intervention in the Middle East starting with Libya, then Syria, and beyond.
Victory in Libya is the inevitable post-Gaddafi chaos
Gaddafi might be an evil man to his own people (he was a longtime sponsor of international terrorism), but in the past decade he has shown an effort to normalize relations with the U.S. by ending his sponsorship of terrorism and disarming Libya. Relationship has improved so much so that the normally hawkish Sen. John McCain is revealed by newly released diplomatic cables to have been pushing the U.S. government to sell weapons to Libya. How does the U.S. and NATO reward Gaddafi? They oust him.
I say victory in Libya, because while Glenn Greenwald has argued that claiming victory or success in Libya is unwarranted, there are obvious reports that the deposal of Gaddafi is the be-all and end-all of the Libyan intervention. As pointed out by John Glaser, the reasons for the Libya War changed “almost immediately” from protecting civilians to regime change even after Barack Obama insisted that his administration’s goals for Libya is not regime change (of course, no one ever asks what the Libyan rebels’ goals are, which in this case is the establishment of an Islamist government based on Sharia law). If one were to keep to that definition of victory, the intervention in Libya was indeed a success, but I will offer a modification: success in Libya is the inevitable post-Gaddafi chaos.
What happens after this regime change is not a main concern for the U.S. or NATO; neither the establishment of a democracy nor peace. The vacuum of power left by the ouster of Gaddafi and the prolonged bloodbath that is sure to follow are self-justifying reasons for continued intervention there. Indeed, the complete collapse of order in Libya would be most beneficial to NATO; it gives them yet another “humanitarian” cause, this time for the pacification and administration of Libya. If Gaddafi’s fall was the goal, then the chaos that will ensue is the perk with Libya’s oil wealth the reward (and a weakened Libya would readily yield to the exploitation of its resources).
Syria is next
While the U.S.’s response to the situation in Syria is altogether too familiar, the outcome might be much different. Unlike Libya, Syria is surrounded by countries in the throes of their own upheavals: Jordan has its persistent protests, Israel recently experienced its largest protest movement in history, and in the case of Iraq, an increase in violence fueled by its eight-year old insurgency. Even Lebanon, which seemed to be left dry by the Arab Spring, cannot expect to escape the chaos if its larger neighbor falls. Syria’s collapse could prove to be the tipping point that would throw fuel into Jordan’s floundering protests, ignite Lebanon’s own protest movement, and increase violence in Iraq which would provide Defense Secretary Leon Panetta the iron-clad justification he needs to extend U.S. presence there. This is in contrast to Libya’s neighbors Egypt and Tunisia with their post-uprising transition already well underway.
Syria also hosts Lebanon’s Hezbollah, many Palestinian terror groups (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), as well as sheltering Baathist elements from Iraq and Al Qaeda. Because of this willingness to work closely with anti-Israel terror groups, Syria is seen by the Arab world as Israel’s principal threat. Say what you will of Gaddafi, but the only group with a past history of terror operating in Libya prior to the unrest there was Gaddafi himself after he expelled many terrorist organizations from Libya (on the other hand, NATO was fighting alongside Al Qaeda to depose Gaddafi).
The fall of Assad’s regime could be seen as an attempt by the West to rid Israel of its enemies. As pointed out by Justin Raimondo, Israel does stand to gain plenty from a defanged Syria. A regime change in Syria also weakens Iran as it loses its most closest ally in the Middle East; further provoking an already nervous Iran. Simply put, a regime change in Syria will have greater consequences in the region that any other unrest in the Middle East thus far, but these consequences would be horrifically amplified if the U.S. and NATO embark in a military campaign there.
But is there going to be a military intervention? All signs point to the likelihood of an intervention in Syria happening.
A greater bloodbath in a post-Assad Syria
The reports coming out from Syria has been nothing short of horror with many observers calling it a bloodbath. And it is that bloodbath that is being used by the U.S. and its Western allies, all former and current colonial powers, to justify yet another regime change in the Middle East. Not content with a demand for Assad to resign, the U.S. is already calling for sanctions. As seen in the past with Iraq and recently in Libya, sanctions along with “no-fly zones” are the steps necessary in the build-up to war. Conveniently, protestors in Hama are now demanding that the U.N. impose a “no-fly zone” over Syrian cities as well.
The corporate media, ever hungry for war carnage in its news coverage (except, of course, the wars raging for years in Iraq and Afghanistan), have earnestly started to “educate” the American public with the regime’s crimes. It is interesting that the five protestors killed recently in Syria is garnering more news coverage, including in outlets not normally devoted to covering casualties like the Daily Beast, than the dozen and more killed today in Iraq. Just as the corporate media willfully ignored or glossed over the Libyan rebels’ systematic massacre of Gaddafi loyalists and the civilian death toll from NATO’s bombs while amplifying Gaddafi’s crimes, so too will the corporate media ignore the armed insurrection fueling the violence in Syria and the inevitable NATO-caused deaths there.
When military intervention does occur in Syria, the question is not whether Assad’s regime will fall (it will fall when faced with the combined military might of the U.S. and NATO), but just how much bloodier the aftermath would be. Not only would the various terror groups take advantage of the void in power, but also help themselves to the deposed regime’s supply of conventional weapons, or worse its suspected cache of weapons of mass destruction. The sudden availability of these weapons will fuel an insurgency that would put Iraq’s to shame.
With a war still raging in Syria’s neighbor Iraq, we might soon be talking less about the eight-year Iraq War but a new label for the wars that would spill beyond both country’s borders. There is also that additional “perk” of opening the possibility of NATO’s involvement in Iraq if that were ever to happen.
The Arab Winter as U.S. doctrine
Here we are with an increasing number of Middle Eastern countries falling under the sway of the American Empire and no end in sight for any of the existing wars the U.S. is actively engaged in. In U.S. foreign policy, under the Bush-Obama presidency, the fundamental definition of victory and success has changed. No longer would unconditional surrender of an enemy be sufficient. A surrender, after all, leads to cessation of hostilities and eventually peace.
The foreign policy of the last decade (or if you believe Ron Paul or Chalmers Johnson, the last half century) has been the fomentation of violence and hatred towards us to justify further violence and Islamophobia towards the Muslim world. This perpetual war not only ensures future and continued business for the military-industrial complex, but also fuels the relentless growth of the State. There is not an “exit strategy,” but there is a strategy of “no exit.”
Barack Obama’s “success” in Libya is not a new era of foreign policy, but merely a more honest one (in a cruel redefinition of that term). It was never a Global War on Terror; it has always been just Global War. It has been a foreign policy of intentional blowback. No longer is George W. Bush’s doctrine of “preemptive strike” against imagined threats in force, but Obama’s fully and honestly articulated doctrine of perpetual Arab Winter; not just for the Middle East, but for the world.