Friday, August 30, 2013

Britain not going to bomb Syria "for now"

Ian Morris’s title is Why the West Rules – For Now and not why the British or U.S. rules.  Nevertheless the Parliamentary debate over whether to bomb Assad’s Syria for using Chemical Weapons, at least the part I watched, seemed to pertain to unilateral action on the part of Britain.  Britain had the power to bomb Syria; it had the fourth largest military force in the world according to Cameron and could punish Syria for using WMDs if it chose to.  In the end, Parliament didn’t support that bombing and Cameron said that he would abide by Parliament’s decision.

Also interesting were the comments of Lord Ashdown who called himself an “old warhorse,” but only in the sense of wanting to back the U.S. as it chastised Syria. 

In this morning’s (Riverside) Press Enterprise Victor Davis Hanson opposed Western intervention in Syria for reasons of Western interest: “In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli Authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists.  Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could – and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion.  Who now is gassing Arab innocents?  Shooting Arab civilians in the streets?  Rounding up and executing Arab civilians?  Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: Either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.” 

In my opinion, Hanson is right.  It is in the best interest of Israel, the U.S. and Britain to let things play themselves out in Syria without Western interference.  Maybe Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” in regard to Chemical Weapons, but so what?  If we oppose him too strongly that could favor the Islamists and we know what they stand for.  Of course no one in Parliament or the Obama administration is thinking in those terms: a Liberal Administration by definition wouldn’t.  Such an administration prefers to act on “Humanitarian principle.”   Jimmy Carter acted on “Humanitarian principle” when he opposed the Shah.  And when the US withdrew its support of the Shah, or at least caused the Shah to no longer think he had US support, Khomeini was able to take over and institute the Islamist regime which became the greatest threat to the West in modern times.  Do we really want to do that same thing in Syria?

Of course I am getting off track here by discussing what ought to be done by the West rather than the fact that these decisions are even in the hands of the West, whether Britain or the US.  Britain “rules” some of the time, as the nation who has the fourth largest military force in the world might well do (in Morris & Ferguson terms), but it “rules” as an ally of its former colony who now has the largest military force in the world.  Both these “rules” might seem somewhat shaky at the present time: they were expensively exercised in Iraq and Afghanistan, and soldiers and tax payers are weary – “for now.” 

This doesn’t in any way represent a decline in Western power in my opinion.  If in regard to some future problem Western interests are more clearly at stake, then these two military powers, the US & Britain, will still be capable of acting decisively.  But such acts will more closely fit Huntington’s paradigm than they will Morris’s & Ferguson’s.  Ruling the waves is much more expensive and difficult than it used to be.

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