The march to war in Syria is just another convulsion by a dying Westphalian system
by David Atkins
As the world marches heedlessly on to the next war, it might be worth remembering what is still happening at the site of our last big war:
A coordinated wave of bombings tore through Shiite Muslim areas in and around the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, killing at least 58 and wounding many more, officials said. The blasts, which came in quick succession, targeted residents out shopping and on their way to work.Interventions may be needed on rare occasions to prevent brutal repression and bloodshed, particularly when the victimized side is far too weak to defend itself. But civil wars are a different problem altogether, and even the best planned and best intentions interventions can go horribly wrong.
The attacks are the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has left thousands dead since April, marking the country's worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. They raise fears that Iraq is hurtling back toward the brink of a civil war fueled by ethnic and sectarian differences.
Insurgents deployed explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and other bombs Wednesday and targeted parking lots, outdoor markets and restaurants in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, according to officials. A military convoy was also hit south of the capital.
Iraq is a divided, sectarian mess right now. Syria is far, far worse. It's hard to see what, beyond a massive and global campaign to literally stop the fighting and extradite the leaders of both sides for trials at the Hague, will work to stop it. Dropping bombs on Assad's forces in order to help the religious fundamentalist revolutionaries doesn't seem like a good plan. It seems likelier to lead to more deaths, not fewer, and heightened anger against the West in the bargain.
If ever there was a time to intervene in Syria--and I'm not sure there ever was--but it would have been before now. It would have been back when Assad was the clear perpetrator, back when secular liberals in Syria hadn't fled or been killed, back before the bloodshed on both sides was so awful that forgiveness and reconciliation seemed impossible. If there was ever a time to act, it would have needed to be credible, global and overwhelming, with an absolute minimum of missile or gunfire.
But, of course, the world wasn't prepared to do that because everyone was and still is jockeying over oil and shipping interests. Very few people in power around the world care two whits for the plight of the Syrian people being killed. They're just pawns on a chessboard. The Saudis and much of Europe would like to see Assad gone, but they would rather watch the U.S. do it and then blame us for what they encouraged us to do afterward.
And, of course, the military industrial complex in the United States rarely saw a war it didn't like. It cares little for the lives of Syrians or for the opinion of the world.
So here we go again, mindlessly and futilely. The governments of China, Russia and United States don't care about saving Syrian lives any more than they care about stopping climate change. Each nation's security and bureaucratic apparatus is so invested in doing whatever is in the national interest (read: the interest wealthiest power brokers in each country) that they never stopped to consider that very phrase "national interest" is becoming an antiquated archaism of a dying Westphalian world.