Tag Archives: Syria

IRAQ-SYRIA: Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich, the George McGovern fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, is writing a history of U. S. military involvement in the Greater Middle East.

n-US-AIRSTRIKE-large570As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.

Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement…

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IRAQ-SYRIA: Moral responsibility to protect Syrian citizens from drone strikes

Pax Christi USA has signed onto the following letter. We encourage others to add their names.

Dear Mr. President:

We write with growing concerning over the air strikes in Syria and Iraq. News that your administration has abandoned the stated policy of making every effort to protect civilian lives in the course of drone strikes undermines America’s moral authority. As people of faith, we see this as a grave moral issue. We urge you to put back in place your policy that no strikes will take place unless there is a “near certainty” that civilians will not be harmed.

Your stated reason for engaging in military action against ISIL was to protect innocent civilians and to bolster the security of the United States against terrorist attack. The recent deaths of civilians, which may have been preventable under your previous stated policy, will only serve to increase the fear and distrust U.S. military action in the region has produced since 2002. It is very likely that these deaths will further radicalize the population, which only serves to weaken the national security of the United States.

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We join Human Rights Watch in calling for an investigation into whether the recent strikes in Idlib were unlawful and urge your administration to cooperate in any such investigation…

Click here to read the entire letter and/or sign.

IRAQ-SYRIA: The folly of bombing

by David Cortwright

iraq-syria-buttonIf bombing were an effective way of ending terrorism and violent extremism, Afghanistan and Iraq now would be oases of tranquility. Pakistan would be a peaceful paradise. Israel would be safe and free from the fear of terrorist attack.

Despite more than a decade of U.S. bombing and large scale military intervention, the Taliban controls large swaths of territory in Afghanistan, and ethnic militias and violent extremist groups dominate Iraq. Hundreds of U.S. drone strikes and bombardments by the Pakistani army have not pacified Waziristan. Thousands of Israeli strikes have not diminished Hamas’ grip on Gaza. Air strikes and military interventions in these cases have hardened local resistance and increased the flow of militant recruits…

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IRAQ-SYRIA: The hypocrisy of further military intervention in Iraq

by Julio R. Sharp-Wasserman

iraq-syria-buttonAs the United States government initiates another war in the Middle East, we are yet again asked to ignore glaring absurdities in the government’s justification of large-scale violence. A distaste for hypocrisy, so central to Jesus’ moral vision, plays an essential role in the outlook of any morally devoted person. Yet a central fact of modern politics, and one accepted as a truism in modern political science since the writings of Max Weber a century ago, is that the state claims a monopoly on the use of violence through a police and military, a privilege whose public legitimacy is based upon its use to condemn, punish and prevent violence committed by others.

This hypocrisy at the essence of the political sphere is one that we do not reflect upon often enough. We seek security of our life and property by recourse to an institution—government—which was responsible for almost all and certainly the most appalling instances of violence in the 20th century. Genocide, mass imprisonment and torture, and large-scale conflagrations can only be brought about by institutions with the taxed resources and the social privilege necessary to organize such large-scale violence. Yet these same institutions, and always the largest and most powerful of them, are, inexplicably, routinely tasked with mitigating violence whenever and wherever it materializes in the world.

The best thing anyone can do to decrease violence in the world is to abstain from violence and embody peace; and as the country with by far the largest and most active military, the best thing we can do to make the world a more peaceful place is to stop going to war. Yet the U.S. government is now telling us that the latest round of violence in the Middle East is an evil that must be stopped by still more imprecisely destructive airstrikes on civilian areas. This is, of course, exactly what we were told about the crimes of Saddam Hussein, in the official attempt to justify a war which turned out to be far more destructive than his regime. Even the most conservative estimates have placed the death toll of this war in the hundreds of thousands, and the displaced—many of whom are religious minorities or other refugees of newly unleashed sectarian violence—in the millions.

The Obama administration, in a display of astounding moral insincerity whose purpose was clearly to drum up support for more extensive intervention, bombed ISIS targets at Sinjar Mountain this summer, claiming concern for the welfare of the Yazidi religious minority. The administration did this without mentioning the fact that religious minorities in Iraq, from Yazidis to Shabaks to Christians, have been far more unsafe since the invasion and before ISIS came to prominence. It also should not be forgotten that ISIS’s formation was a direct result of the original 2003 invasion, in the wake of which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi exploited instability and newly ripened sectarian tension to build an anti-Shiite unofficial al-Qaida off-shoot in Iraq that later became ISIS. And instability in neighboring Syria, which has been ISIS’s other training ground, is certainly attributable to a significant extent to the free movement of radicals between Iraq and Syria since the destruction of the Iraqi government.

As Martin Luther King taught us, paraphrasing Jesus, violence only begets more violence; and Iraq right now is a concrete illustration of this proverb. Let us also not forget the classical liberal dictum that every government intervention has unintended consequences, because of the essential unmanageability of human behavior. Human behavior is unpredictable and that of those enraged by violence and instability is yet more unpredictable. The future conduct of millions of people affected by a large-scale act of government violence such as the one being initiated, is so far beyond the capacities of human foresight that no consequentialist argument in defense of an act of war like this one, least of all in the complex region is question, is plausible. After all, none of those within the American war machine who are currently advocating war against ISIS predicted its rise in the first place. But what is predictable is that more violence will make Iraq a more violent place.

IRAQ-SYRIA: Sisters of Mercy call for nonviolent alternatives to address ISIS

The following statement was issued by the Sisters of Mercy on September 15.

iraq-syria-buttonThe Sisters of Mercy are committed to nonviolence and peace-making and therefore want to elevate concerns regarding the strategy that President Obama outlined in his national address on September 10, 2014 to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Despite much criticism, we appreciate that the President took time to cautiously and carefully craft an approach to the unique and very serious threat that ISIS poses to the region and to the world. However we believe that extensive reliance on a U.S. military strategy could worsen the situation. Our commitment to nonviolence does not mean we believe in passivity in the face of barbaric aggression. Instead, we support giving serious attention and engagement with proven and effective non-military approaches to interrupt the spiral of violence in the region and to protect communities from harm.

Like President Obama, we recognize the importance of bringing this threat to world security to the United Nations General Assembly. Women religious in the region who have witnessed and experienced many atrocities committed by ISIS have called for, among other things, the international community’s involvement led by the United Nations. But the President’s engagement at the U.N. should not become a platform for a further justification of U.S. military escalation in the Middle East, and instead call for a true multilateral partnership to develop humane, nonviolent and effective responses to this serious threat. Relying solely on a U.S.-led coalition for military action could lead to longer-term U.S. military engagement and an ongoing war in the region, as well as fuel greater anti-U.S. sentiment….

Click here to read the entire statement.

VIDEO: How military “experts” that hawk for war are on payroll of defense contractors

from Brave New Films

Talking heads like former General Jack Keane are all over the news media fanning fears of IS. Shouldn’t the public know about their links to Pentagon contractors?

IRAQ-SYRIA: The case against intervention

by Adrian Bonenberger, Commonweal

IraqCrisis-smallOn September 10, President Barack Obama delivered a widely anticipated speech addressing the alarming growth in the scope and power of the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president announced that in order to defeat ISIS, the United States would ramp up military intervention in the Middle East, arming insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq and using airstrikes to support allies in the region. The speech was important. For the first time since he announced a surge in Afghanistan at the beginning of his presidency—a surge in which I played a small role, as a company commander deployed to Kunduz Province—the president is publicly and deliberately committing the U.S. military to ongoing actions in that area. Tuesday, he made good on that promise, hitting Islamic State and Al Qaeda targets in Syria and Iraq with airstrikes and cruise missiles.

The civil wars in Syria and Iraq have provoked widespread outrage: anger at the unscrupulous and repressive leaders, Assad and al-Maliki, who have governed the countries so ruthlessly; horror at the brutal sectarian violence; grief for the shattered families, the refugees—over 2 million and counting—and the nearly two-hundred-thousand lives lost so far. The natural human response to such suffering is to try to end it as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. In this case, however, acting on that desire is the worst thing America could do. Recent historical evidence suggests that if we intervene, we are less likely to end the suffering than to compound it, stretching the killing out over decades instead of years…

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