Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Decade After Iraq, Right-Wing and Liberal Hawks Reunite Over Syria

Ten years after right-wing and liberal hawks came together to push the U.S. into invading Iraq, key members of the two groups appear to be reuniting behind stronger U.S. military intervention in Syria.

Inter Press Service

Tenyears after right-wing and liberal hawks came together to push the U.S. into invading Iraq, key members of the two groups appear to be reuniting behind stronger U.S. military intervention in Syria.

While the liberals appear motivated by a desire to stop the violence and prevent its spread across borders, their right-wing colleagues, particularly neo-conservatives, see U.S. intervention as key to dealing Iran a strategic defeat in the region.

“[T]he most important strategic goal continues to be to defeat Iran, our main adversary in the region,” according to Tuesday’s lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

“The risks of a jihadist victory in Damascus are real, at least in the short-term, but they are containable by Turkey and Israel,” the editorial asserted. “The far greater risk to Middle East stability and U.S. interests is a victorious arc of Iranian terror from the Gulf to the Mediterranean backed by nuclear weapons.”

The immediate impetus for the reunion between the country’s two interventionist forces seems related primarily to charges that Syrian security forces have used chemical weapons in several attacks on insurgents and growing fears that the two-year-old civil war is spilling over into and destabilising neighbouring countries.

Those fears gained greater urgency this week when Israeli warplanes twice attacked targets close to Damascus and reports surfaced that Lebanon’s Hezbollah has sharply escalated its role in actively defending the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Both developments appear to have emboldened hawks, particularly neo-conservatives who have sought for more than two decades to make the overthrow of the Assad dynasty in Damascus a major priority for U.S. Mideast policy and now see the conflict in Syria as a proxy war between Iran and Israel.

War-weariness and public disillusionment with U.S. interventions they championed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as President Barack Obama’s oft-expressed reservations about the wisdom of engaging in yet another war in a predominantly Muslim country, had kept the neo-conservatives and other right-wing hawks at bay.

But a combination of an ever-climbing death toll, Hezbollah’s increased involvement, the rise of radical Islamist groups within the insurgency, and the initial — albeit yet to be confirmed — estimates by U.S., Israeli, and Western European intelligence agencies that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, as well as Obama’s apparently offhand public warnings during last year’s election campaign that such use would cross a “red line”, have propelled some prominent liberals — most recently, New York Times columnist Bill Keller and former senior Obama policy official Anne Marie Slaughter — into their camp.

Led by the Wall Street Journal and William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, the neo-conservatives remain the most aggressive among the hawks in their advice, just as they were in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Thus, providing weapons to selected rebel groups – an option which the administration is considered most likely to exercise if the evidence of chemical weapons use by government forces is confirmed – is no longer considered sufficient.

“At this stage, (a better outcome of the conflict), this would require more than arming some rebels,” according to the Journal editorial. “It probably means imposing a no-fly zone and air strikes against Assad’s forces.

“We would not rule out the use of American and other ground troops to secure the chemical weapons,” the editorial writer added in a notable deviation from assurances offered by the hawks’ two most prominent Congressional champions – Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham – who, in deference to public opinion, have said repeatedly that putting U.S. “boots on the ground” should be off the table.

This echoed Kristol’s own editorial in the Standard published on the weekend. Arming the rebels, he wrote, “could well be too little, too late. …It’s hard to see what a serious response would be short of direct American engagement – perhaps a combination of enforcement of a no-fly zone and aerial attacks. And no serious president would rule out a few boots on the ground.”

The Journal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-policy columnist, Bret Stephensweighed in with even more specific advice Tuesday.

He called for Obama to “disable the runways of Syrian air bases, including the international airport in Damascus; …[u]se naval assets to impose a no-fly zone over western Syria; …[s]upply the Free Syrian Army with heavy military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and light tanks; [and b]e prepared to seize and remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, even if it means putting boots (temporarily) on the ground.”

Liberal hawks have been less precise about what needs to be done, but their sense of urgency in favour of escalating U.S. military intervention – beginning with supplying the rebels with weapons – appears no less intense.

Slaughter, who served for two years as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s policy planning chief and, as an influential Princeton University international-relations professor, urged U.S. intervention in both Iraq and Libya, published an op-ed in the Washington Post that warned that Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria brought forth the spectre of the Rwandan genocide.

“For all the temptation to hide behind the decision to invade Iraq based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act,” she wrote, without prescribing precisely what he should do.

Keller, who described himself as a “reluctant hawk” in an influential 1,500-word op-ed on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion, provided somewhat more detailed advice in 1,300-word, very prominently placed op-ed entitled “Syria is Not Iraq” Wednesday in which he quoted Slaughter, among other liberal hawks.

“The United States moves to assert control of the arming and training of rebels – funnelling weapons through the rebel Supreme Military Council, cultivating insurgents who commit to negotiation an orderly transition to a non-sectarian Syria,” he wrote.

“We make clear to President Assad that if he does not cease his campaign of terror and enter negotiations on a new order, he will pay a heavy price. When he refuses, we send missiles against his military installations until he, or more likely those around him, calculate that they should sue for peace.”

Keller, who several years after the Iraq invasion offered a somewhat muted apology for supporting that war, stressed that he did not “mean to make this sound easy,” but stressed that a disastrous outcome “is virtually inevitable if we stay out [of the conflict]. …Why wait for the next atrocity?” he asked.

“Iraq should not keep us from doing the right thing in Syria,’’ according to the op-ed’s subhead.

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share