Matching Grant Challenge
BruceMatch
We’re slowly making headway in our annual fund drive, but not nearly fast enough to meet our make-or-break goal.  On the bright side, a generous CounterPuncher has stepped forward with a pledge to match every donation of $100 or more. Any of you out there thinking of donating $50 should know that if you donate a further $50, CounterPunch will receive an additional $100. And if you plan to send us $200 or $500 or more, he will give CounterPunch a matching $200 or $500 or more. Don’t miss the chance. Double your clout right now. Please donate.
 unnamed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)

pp1

or
cp-store

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

A War Will Look Far More Like Iraq Than Libya

The Problem With Intervening in Syria

by PHYLLIS BENNIS

The brave, non-violent Syrian challenge to a brutal dictatorship emerged as part of the Arab risings across the region. But that short Syrian spring of 2011 has long since morphed into an escalation of militarization and death. The International Committee of the Red Cross acknowledged what many already recognized: Syria is immersed in full-scale civil war. As is true in every civil war, civilian casualties are horrific and rising.

Certainly the regime has carried out brutal acts against civilians, including war crimes. The armed opposition is also responsible for attacks leading to the deaths of civilians. Indications are growing of outside terrorist forces operating in Syria as well.

Of course the normal human reaction is “we’ve got to do something!” But however dire the situation facing Syrian civilians, the likelihood that any outside military attacks would actually help the situation is very remote. Despite defections, Syria’s military, especially its air force, remains one of the strongest in the Arab world, and direct outside military involvement, especially by the United States, NATO, or other longstanding opponents of Syria would inevitably mean even greater carnage. U.S./NATO military intervention didn’t bring stability, democracy, or security to Libya, and it certainly is not going to do so in Syria.

Syria’s war is erupting in a region still seething in the aftermath of the U.S. war in Iraq and the sectarian legacies it left behind. The fighting is also now taking on an increasingly sectarian form – and the danger is rising of Syria becoming the center of an expanded regional war pitting Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Shi’a-dominated governments in Iran and Iraq.

Iran is the most important reason for U.S. interest in Syria. With continuing U.S.-EU sanctions on Iran, and Israeli threats of military attack, Syria remains a tempting proxy target. Damascus’s longstanding economic, political, and military ties with Tehran mean that efforts to undermine Syria are widely understood to be at least partly aimed at undermining Iran.

Certainly the United States, the EU, and the U.S.-backed Arab monarchies would prefer a more anti-Iranian, less resistance-oriented government in Syria, which borders key countries of U.S. interest including Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey. They would also prefer a less repressive government, since brutality brings protesters out into the streets, threatening instability.

But as has virtually always been the case, a U.S. decision to send fighter-jets or bombers or even ground troops to Syria, won’t be because Washington is suddenly worried about Syrian civilians. The Assad regime has brutalized civilians for years, but it has been way too useful for Washington to worry about such things. Damascus accepted U.S. detainees for interrogation and torture in the so-called “global war on terror,” it sent warplanes to join the U.S. Gulf War coalition attacking Iraq in 1991, it kept the occupied Golan Heights and the Israeli border largely pacified… and human rights violations were never a problem for the United States. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland admitted, “we are not always consistent.”

Whatever our humanitarian concerns might be, real decisions about direct military intervention will be made with little regard for Syrian civilians, Syrian civil society, or Syria’s national survival – all of which will suffer consequences that could last a generation or more. A U.S./NATO air war against Syria would likely not end like Libya’s – with no western casualties and a quick exit. Given Syria’s military, especially air capacity, it will look far more like Iraq than Libya.

Diplomacy is the only way this war will be ended.  Accountability for war crimes, whether in national or international jurisdictions, is crucial – but stopping the current escalation of war must come first.

The UN may be able to facilitate that process. The UN observer mission has been a political football, with the United States demanding the Security Council vote under Chapter VII, setting the stage for military intervention. Russia, determined to protect its naval base on the Syrian coast, rejected Chapter VII.  A compromise allowed a 30-day extension, but the real goal should be expansion of both the deployment and its mandate, from observation alone to attempts at political negotiation.

The head of the UN observer mission, Norwegian General Robert Mood, described his team’s success in some areas “to facilitate local dialogues between the parties as they seek to find a step by step way to build confidence and stop the negative spiral of violence. …We observe a significant reduction of violence and growing confidence in a possible step by step approach to stop the violence….[T]he political dialogue has to be brought inside Syria …Through that dialogue, and lifting it to the national level, we will then achieve a cessation of violence.”

That kind of bottom-up ceasefire effort, moving from the local to the national level, may offer the best chance to re-engage the non-violent core of the Syrian uprising and those opposition forces inside who are prepared to negotiate, bringing some hope that the UN team on the ground may be able to bring about what the Security Council has so far failed to achieve – a real ceasefire. Then the work to achieve the Syrian Spring’s goals of democracy and human rights may have a chance.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

This column is distributed by Other Words.