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Obama’s War Itch


Humanitarian intervention is the liberalization of aggression, liberalism itself having already poisoned the well with its cant about social welfare and labor rights while force-feeding corporate monopolization and the financialization of capitalism through its policy of deregulation and its shibboleths of market fundamentalism—backed by military intervention determined on global political-economic-ideological hegemony.

Obama waxes eloquent over the casualties of chemical weapons, not a word though of the thousands his personal authorization destined to vaporization through his campaign of armed drones for targeted assassination. I’m suspicious. With a record of war crimes that he seeks desperately to cover up (hence, his obsession to punish and silence whistleblowers), how much can we trust him on Syria, even before UN monitors have reached conclusions?

One does not have to be an apologist for either side in the conflict to know that the US and its European clubbies are thinking and probably soon executing intervention not for the well-being of the Syrian people, but for reasons of US and Western goals which might well extend beyond the Middle East itself to an all-out confrontation, whether with Islam or China (or both) doesn’t seem important, just so long as the militarization of class-rule on an international scale can continue.

If Assad is a (lower-case) hitler, the US does not have clean hands to overthrow him. Dictatorship has become so muddied that, at the very least, atrocities must be proven, and then laid out for the world to see, preparatory to UN action and International Criminal Court proceedings. America’s dedication to regime change, beginning with the Korean War, has been continuous for six decades, paralleled by the progressive increase of the military budget under both major parties, so this immediate maneuvering of naval power in the region has to be taken seriously.

In fact, it is wrong to separate Egypt and Syria in policy-making circles—interestingly, no righteous indignation over the military slaughter of the innocent in Cairo (Israel has made the same distinction, promilitary in Egypt, anti-Assad in Syria), as though the same itch for widening conflict.

I’ve been wrong on many occasions, possibly this one as well, which seems to tilt toward Assad. But when I see the national-security gang gathered around Obama, to a person extremely hawkish, and his personal involvement in assassination (just for starters, as in the way he is moving toward confrontation with China), his zealous regard for things paramilitary (CIA-JSOC operations), his wrapping himself in the flag while sacrificing working people to corporate and banking America, I might be pardoned for thinking that no- good can come out of evil: the evil of betraying principles upon which he was elected, including those found in the Constitution relating to the rule of law (denial of habeas corpus rights and unlawful searches and seizures) to contempt for the general welfare, as in expanding Executive power on many fronts, including the conduct of the military.

If Assad is the villain warranting regime change, what can be said for POTUS, with sticky fingers in every pot auguring poorly for world peace and domestic well-being?

My New York Times comment (Aug. 26) on Obama administration deliberations:

The rush to judgment is all too familiar, as in the case of WMD and Iraq. The US track record and its new rallying cry, humanitarian intervention, is rejected by most of the world. Obama and his national-security advisers have a craving for war, whether a distorted view of patriotism or simply courting popularity with a nation careening dangerously to the Right, is a moot point. Also, war is a good distraction from a shabby record on everything from banking regulation to job creation. The Democratic party is hopeless, a profound betrayal of FDR and the New Deal.

This time should there be intervention, world consequences will be frightening. Yet perhaps that is what Washington welcomes, a chance to show toughness and risk the safety of the global population. Anyone for a remake of Dr. Strangelove?

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University. His new book, Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published by CounterPunch in the fall of 2013.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

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