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Commentary: The US and Syria's limited war: What is the objective?
Published on September 11, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Rebecca Theodore

The fervor to pledge military action to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons in Syria is now gaining intensity in Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry’s mendacious rhetoric of ‘a moral obscenity’ now evokes another ‘Kantian’ evil that further perverts the basis of moral law and infringes human judgment.

Rebecca Theodore is an op-ed columnist based in Washington, DC. She writes on national security and political issues. Follow her on twitter @rebethd or email at
The United States is wrapped in its shroud of hypocritical morality and seeks yet again to strip the moral universe to serve the cause of another unjust war in Syria.

And what comes to light is not only nihilism, cynicism and confusion of the ‘rhetoric of morality’ but the wavering question of – what is the objective?

While Tea Party lawmakers, Congressional Republicans and even Democrats alike seek to unravel the themes of foreign policy and its reference to the ‘Great Unwashed,’ it is alarming how they too have become dangerous and negative in their own moral pomposity where a military strike on Syria is concerned.

Call it the politics of the moment.

Undeniably, the use of chemical weapons in Syria violates international laws and norms. President Obama says, “It presents a serious danger to our national security.” Braced by Kerry’s fustian reasoning of “a defiance of a morality code” and Senator John McCain’s suggestion that “inaction is a mark of cowardice that emboldens Assad,” it must also be seen that a surgical strike cannot deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but only unleashes the pangs of another bitter and long drawn out war on humanity.

War is not a singular thing.

While it can be argued that the credible restoration of a red line, the halting of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the bruising of the dominant, economical play between Syria, Russia and China are valid objectives for going to war in Syria; it must also be upheld that attacking the Syrian government also strengthens al-Qaeda.

In choosing to fortress all their concerns on the Assad regime, American intelligence are ignoring their claim to the 6,000 foreigners fighting in Syria, among which is the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- Syria’s al-Qaeda wing with a determined goal of establishing an Islamic state from Diyala to Beirut and who now controls many key areas in Syria.

A military strike by the US on the Assad regime fortifies the terror that America claims to despise, amplifies the fault lines between Islamic Sunni and Shiite factions and awakens the historic, cultural and ethnic tensions between Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Turkey as refugees seek safety.

The demolishment of a squabble on the practical plane doesn’t mean that it has no posture on the theoretical plane. With an already perilous domestic agenda at home, it would be wise for Obama to see that he is being baited into a fiendish trap by his own Secretary of State and any attack on Syria would be a mistake.

A strike on Syria does not enhance America’s future neither does it augment the prospects of peace in the Middle East, but only further impedes Israel’s security, strengthens the war on terror and threatens the stability of Syria’s neighbors.

From this viewpoint, it would do well to re-investigate the intelligence fiasco that is leading to a war on Syria and to understand that it is Kerry who is pushing the world into a war while at the same time instigating a peace treaty with Israel and Palestine.

Media reports indicate that “there is a lot of gaps in US intelligence including who ordered the use of chemical weapons and where those weapons are now.”

The Secretary of State who speaks of a ‘moral obscenity’ ignores the fact that the US drone program also violates the right to life under international law.

Of course, it is important to the political and social sciences that there is an objective to this war, but using the theme of a bloated moral rhetoric is a revolting mockery that would do well to re-examine the reciprocal relationship between Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria and the use of drone activity by the US that kills thousands in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan on a daily basis; for together they spun a common immorality that quickens death and destruction in their path.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he isn’t even sure what the US is seeking in the war. To put it more bluntly, he asked the question himself: “What do we expect from the region and particularly the Syrian conflict to look like in three months from now?”
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