Monday, August 26, 2013

Incoherent impotence

That's the only phrase I can think of to describe the current drive toward launching cruise missiles into Syria:
Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets.
Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.
As the preparations gathered pace, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people “with impunity."
Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity “is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed," he said. 

Should these leaders actually carry through, it will be instructive to observe the reaction of their respective publics.  For the U.S. in particular, there are some inconvenient data points and questions worth raising:

1) Under what authority can the Administration just start lobbing cruise missiles at a nation that has neither attacked us or shown any imminent likelihood of doing so?  (Indeed, by arming various rebel factions in Syria, including some of a decidedly al Qada-like bent, it's pretty clear we're already the aggressors in this scenario.)

2) We took no such action against Saddam Hussein when he gassed the Kurdish minority in Iraq back in 1988.  Provided we even have proof it was Assad's forces using chemicals in Syria, and not the rebels, why would we react differently this time?

3) To make another comparison, why is it necessary for the U.S. to become militarily involved in a civil war when chemical weapons kill a few hundred civilians, when we did nothing to stop the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda nearly 20 years ago?   It seems our leaders are highly selective when they choose to invoke our moral outrage.  Which leads to the question:

4) What, exactly, do our leaders intend to accomplish by tossing expensive cruise missiles into Syria?  Does the American public expect them to explain themselves?  Can they even do so coherently?

After a dozen years of non-stop military adventures overseas, it's clear there is little to no return on investment.  Iraq is still a basket case.  Afghanistan remains... well, Afghanistan.  We toppled Gadaffi in Libya, only to have a U.S. ambassador and his traveling party killed in the chaos that followed.  Daunted somewhat by the public's increasing resistance to putting "boots on the ground" in even more hot spots, the District of Corruption seems reduced to more symbolic (and robotic) expressions of ire, like drones and very expensive self-guided missiles

There is no discernible strategic vision in any of this... hence the 'incoherence' part.  And given the diminishing ability to effect real change anywhere, it appears the impotent label is all too apropos. 

As more serious challengers come to that realization, the world will only continue to get more... interesting...

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