Sunday, September 1, 2013

Don't Worry Charlie - I've Got an Angle

Behind every nation's military interventions, there is an agenda, even in the cases of "good" wars. The United States is not alone in this. It's vanishingly rare for nations to expend resources and lives solely for moral concerns. Agendas may be primarily political in nature or they may be driven by security concerns or what have you - and they're not always hateful conspiracies against the cause of right and justice.

The issue that United States has right now is that more or less no one believes that President Obama is motivated solely by the plight of the civilian population of Syria. (Then again, neither is anyone else.) Yet his now widely understood as unwise and naïve "red line" rhetoric on the use of NBC weapons in the conflict is fueling claims that both his and the nation's credibility are on the line. But the United States has already lost the credibility war - the very fact that so many people, within the United States and without, sincerely regard the talk of chemical weapons as cover for a nefarious (and possibly trivial) plot is proof of that. The idea of the United States as a heroic defender of freedom and democracy has faded into the distant past, and been replaced by an image of a powerful, yet waning, nation that lashes out around itself; cloaking increasingly desperate attempts to preserve the power, prestige and hegemony that its faltering economy depends on in the soaring, threadbare rhetoric of peace and justice. (While, at the same time, insisting that it be above the judgment of other nations.)

I don't think that anyone suspects that, left to its own devices, the Syrian Civil War will end well. (After all, name one that has.) There also seems to be a widespread lack of confidence that the situation can be de-escalated in a manner mutually acceptable to everyone involved by any outside parties, alone or in concert. This has created a dynamic where it is taken for granted that outside intervention will assuredly do more harm than good, providing the basis for a general understanding that any action must be self-serving.  But since a clear national interest (for anyone) is so difficult to identify, the assumption that there is a hidden (and destructive) agenda becomes the default.

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