Friday, 7 April 2017

Why is Trump bombing Syria

Well, there we have it. The liberal chickenhawks should be cheering Trump's airstrikes against the Syrian regime. They've finally got what they wanted. The Donald has just done what Obama wanted to do back in 2013, though the administration dropped the idea of 'punitive strikes' because it lacked a clear strategy and the support of major allies. By contrast, Trump has no such restraint and has gone ahead anyway. This is a senseless display of state violence and no good will come of it.

Not that this signals a major change in US policy, the Trump administration has made clear it does not support regime change in Syria and the US has been bombing Syria for three years now. What changed last night was the target of the bombing. It was the first time the bombing campaign directly targeted the regime as part of official policy. It may reflect a shift in the struggles over policy in the US government, but not a break with history.

In fact, it is a sign of continuity after Steve Bannon was kicked off of the National Security Council. This is the end result of Michael Flynn being booted out of the administration for not disclosing his meetings with the Russian ambassador. The deviation from the traditional leadership of the Pentagon was not meant to last. Intelligence leaks and a media hysteria have allowed the old order to reassert itself. These 'punitive strikes' are not a humanitarian intervention. Rather the strikes represent the consolidation of Pentagon aims.

It's been apparent for some time now that the US has no coherent strategy in Syria. Obama may have pledged political support for the Syrian opposition. This support was translated into limited supplies of arms and funds. However, the US and its allies could have moved against Assad much earlier. If the Israelis had mobilied forces on the Syrian border, the armed forces would have been split and thus left vulnerable to a rebel offensive. But this never happened.

There is evidence that the Russians floated the idea of Assad stepping down in 2012, but the Americans threw cold water on the idea. The US government was waiting for the regime to cave to the rebel opposition, so it could control the outcome of the war. The problem may have been that the US wanted to see Assad go and keep the Ba'ath regime in place. This is quite similar to the US position on Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War.

Eventually the American ruling class decided it was better to invade and dismantle the entire regime and replace it with a new client state. Al Gore was calling for a US invasion of Iraq in 1998, and in 2003 the Bush administration finally toppled Saddam. It's possible to imagine that the Syrian civil war will conclude with the defeat of revolutionary forces and the emergence of a weak, broken state dominated by Assad and Islamist groups.

No comments: