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US-Syria: Unilateralism and morality of convenience

September 11, 2013 17:54 IST

A protest against action on SyriaThe past record of attacks by the Americans has been such that it would take a monumental task for them to get the rest of the world to believe in at attack on Syria. As such, in history books, this would seem another attempt by the US to emboss its unilateralism over the world and nothing else beyond it, says Sriram Balasubramanian.

The Americans are at it again. As I watched the proceedings of the recent Senate committee hearing, it was a sense of deja vu all over once more. The same terminology, the same bravado and the same nationalistic pitch were repeated time and again by the secretary of state and his team at the Senate committee hearing. America is ready to wage war and beyond the conflict, it throws up numerous questions.

The momentum gathered on the plan to strike Syria had been done at rapid speed. Ever since the alleged chemical attacks on Syria, there has been strong case by the lawmakers in Washington to take action.

While these attacks should be surely condemned if they were true, a strike on Syria seems completely uncalled for. Considering that there is uncanny resemblance to the Iraq war, there is even more suspicion. Almost 10 years ago, the same terms were used; weapons of mass destruction, the media was all over town on WMD, the agencies were talking about how Iraq could destroy the world and about liberating the Iraqis.

So what is the state of Iraq now? The country is in a bigger state of chaos now with the civilian government still in its infancy. Liberation is probably the last word that the common Iraqi would talk about considering the sectarian violence that has taken afoot after the US left Iraq. Now, everyone openly admits weapons of mass destruction never even existed!

Amidst all this, the US has got what it wanted, control over oil in the region. The oil that the Americans sought control over seems to be under their guard and most of the natural resources in Iraq seem to be contracted to American companies. As such the talk of a broader “global interest” is comical considering the negative global ramifications of the Iraq siege. Needless to say, this adds more fuel to the idea of American unilateralism and arrogance that the world has learnt to loathe.

In the case of Syria, Americans in all likelihood would be in it all alone. Despite their strong public posturing, the fact is that no country is keen to enter into the war. It is even more baffling considering that the argument of terrorists in Iraq doesn’t even hold good here. It is also a unilateral arrogance by the only superpower considering that this has nothing to do with it directly.

Syrians have not attacked the US much like the terrorist organisations that caused 9/11 or countries like North Korea that threatened with nuclear power. So, what right does the US have in unilaterally deciding on the state of another sovereign country which is going through civil war?

Who is the US to decide that it needs to “set things in order” when it is essentially dealing with the internal affairs of another country? More so, what gives the US the legitimate right to aid the cause of the rebels in Syria who are equally draconian as the current establishment? The moral pedigree of the United States to choose morality of convenience is a sign of authoritarianism at its best. Using morality as a reason to intervene in another country’s affairs serves the complete opposite purpose. It projects America as a morally opportunistic nation and significantly, dilutes the legacy of its President Barack Obama.

Obama, till date, has reflected everything that is good about America. The first black President was a beacon of hope for many people across the world. It amuses me to see why the President would indulge in such a unilateral strike when his legacy is at stake. He had come to power largely because of the anger against the war-driven actions of President George W Bush.

As such his mandate for his first term was to revert the war mess and set the economy in order. While he is still working around the economy, he has done a commendable job in ensuring peace during his presidency. As such, it makes no sense for him to enter into a war that is barely going to change his country’s stature and would deteriorate his ratings within his own country.

The question is why would Obama risk his entire legacy for a war that is barely going to make a difference to America’s global presence? Even if Iran was an indirect point of attack, wouldn’t it be more prudent to focus on the economic recovery and stabilise its economic superiority across the world?

There is a case, that the war lobby, within Washington has been dormant for way too long. As they say, weapon manufacturing, which runs into billions, wouldn’t function if there were no wars. This could play an underlying role in this decision of the US to conduct a limited strike over Syria.

While it is important the global community sends a strong signal to rebuke the chemical attacks, why go to war that too unilaterally? There are numerous other ways of addressing this through economic and social embargos, have those options been vetoed out?

In retrospect, this move by America seems to the outside world to be more belligerence than being the saviours of the world from chemical attacks. The past record of the attacks by the Americans has been such that it would take a monumental task for them to get the rest of the world to believe in this. As such, in history books, this would seem another attempt by the US to emboss its unilateralism over the world and nothing else beyond it.

Sriram Balasubramanian is a writer and journalist. He can be contacted @Sriram316, or at his website

Sriram Balasubramanian