FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America Hopscotches Into Syria

I’ve been watching and listening to a growing number of people in the United States get their hackles up about the moral atrocities going on in Syria. And, with each tear shed and each cry howled, I have also become increasingly disgusted with what passes for geopolitical comprehension in this country.

As a nation, the chorus for war against Assad and his allotment of chemical weapons grows louder and louder. He has become the new Saddam, the re-worked Noriega: he is the object of our moral outrage and, therefore, the caricature that makes us feel better about ourselves. We must intervene to end this “unspeakable outrage,” declares the President. This Administration cannot stand idly by while a brute kills his own people. This is the rationale, at any rate, just as similar verbiage became the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, the deployment of drones, the destruction of Vietnam, etc. etc.

The basic question asked by so many hand-ringing and concerned westerners is, are there not moments in which the US/Europe has the moral imperative to intervene in a conflict? Put another way, is there really an argument against intervention in instances in which innocents are being coldly slaughtered? It sounds straightforward enough: If bad people do bad things to innocent people, then those who see those bad things should try to stop them from happening, particularly if they have the power to do so. However, this ideological stance would have the U.S. play the part of beneficent world actor and would purport that there are moments in which the U.S. should act because it has the ultimate moral authority. This is the (in my view) frightening view that I think has guided too many of us in this nation, generation after generation. A basic question is left unasked- who is the U.S. to act? We avoid this question, I believe, out of a sense of inherent superiority. The logic goes like this: when we kill, we display some degree of moral compunction. In other words, we do it, but we hate it. When those Brown or Black people do it, it is because they are intrinsically savage. With the dead piling up higher and higher in our name, I do not think that we, as a nation, can claim to hate it.

Beyond this, though, there is a misinterpretation of history that undergirds the interventionist thinking that has taken hold among some on the Left and would have us believe that “the bloodied hands” of the U.S. and Europe is a thing of the past, or that somehow we have transcended a past of boorish atrocities and arrived at a place of moral superiority. Clearly, this is not the case, and I don’t think we need to review the long list of disturbing foreign policy positions to prove my point.

We, as individuals, may watch in horror at atrocities committed throughout the world and want them to end. What we tend not to see are the long stretches of history (and the current meddling by so-called Northern powers) in which interventions in those nations have led to or exacerbated the very atrocities from which we cringe. In the case of Syria, humanitarian interventionists cry over the civilians killed by the Assad government, but are only marginally disturbed by the prospect of civilians being killed by Tomahawk missiles built in Ohio. Or dying from exposure to depleted uranium. Or, if things get really wild, being melted by phosphorous munitions. (All of which, of course, happened to countless civilians of Iraq. We, after all, love our chemical weapons, just not theirs.) Equally, few seem perturbed about the civilians who would invariably be killed in the eventuality of a rebel victory (as if Jabhat an-Nusra has proven itself thus far to be a band of right-thinking fighters for justice). These, I suppose, are problems that will prick the conscience later, after the dust has settled, and our warships cruise out of the Mediterranean. At least we will have done the right thing at that moment!

What is missing is a more complex analysis of the manifold forms of violence, so that we can begin to move beyond reacting to the flashes of subjective violence (the horrors that scream out of the television screens and drag us to do something, anything!) and start dismantling the objective violence that lies all around us. Until then, I am certain that the body-count of Black and Brown people around the world will grow and grow as the United States plays its own brutal game of hopscotch across the globe.

TARECQ M. AMER is an urban geographer who can be reached at tmamer@ucdavis.edu.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail