Strikes on Syria will shatter Obama's legacy

By Clifford Kiracofe Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-28 23:08:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Will the West further destabilize the Middle East by launching military strikes against Syria? The debate in Washington is not only impacted by chemical weapons "red lines," but also by the issue of US President Barack Obama's "legacy."

In Washington, pro-war and pro-peace factions in both the Republican and Democratic parties are lining up on Syria. Although the US public is strongly opposed to more US intervention, the pro-war faction could care less.

The spectacle in Washington today pits the US military which is reluctant to intervene in Syria against the pro-war forces in the Congress and in the media, which are pressured by the pro-Israel lobby. 

What about Obama's legacy?

Obama's inner circle is fixated on his historical legacy now that he is in his second and final term of office. His inner circle is focused on foreign policy for legacy making. So the White House spins the foreign policy legacy presenting the president as ending two wars.

But critics say former president George W. Bush's Iraq War, unnecessary in the first place, was needlessly prolonged by Obama. They also say that the Obama escalation in Afghanistan was counterproductive and delayed a timely US exit.

Today White House advisors face a worsening scandal with the Benghazi affair, a failed Arab-Israeli peace process, and a complex and bloody situation in Syria. In short, the Middle East is a disaster zone due to US policy.

The Syrian situation just worsened thanks to chemical weapons use. Although it is not yet clear which side used the chemical weapons, pro-war European and US politicians are inclined to use the recent incident as a pretext for military strikes against Syrian government targets.

On the other hand, General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly warned the Congress and the public that direct US military action against Syria could be highly destabilizing and could even help US' terrorist enemies.

Not only is the US military cautious but both active and retired senior British military leaders are reportedly opposed to any destabilizing use of force. On top of this, very senior active and retired Israeli military and intelligence leaders are also said to oppose any military strikes.

In spite of the caution of military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials, it is the pro-war politicians who are driving the move toward expanded military intervention and war. These politicians, in turn, are under the strong ideological and financial influence of the pro-Israel lobby whether in Washington, London, or Paris.

What is the situation now in Washington?

Obama reorganized his national security team after his reelection. Susan Rice, his former ambassador to the UN, was appointed as national security advisor. Samantha Power, an academic human rights advocate, replaced Rice as ambassador to the UN.

Both Rice and Power are proponents of humanitarian interventionism and the associated doctrine of responsibility to protect.

In the last few days, Obama has spoken of the US as the so-called "indispensable nation," a phrase first used by Madeleine Albright, former president Bill Clinton's secretary of state. Albright was the key figure behind the US and NATO military intervention in the Kosovo War in 1999. 

Rice is a protégé of Albright and is a passionate advocate of the use of military force in humanitarian intervention situations as is Power. Power has a very close personal relationship with Obama. The Kosovo case now is invoked by White House advisors.

The 1999 Kosovo intervention by the US and NATO was done outside the UN process in order to avoid problems with the Security Council. Thus, the use of this precedent is convenient for Washington today as a way of preparing global public opinion for military action against the Syrian government.

Should Obama use direct military forces against Syria his foreign policy legacy will be further undermined and the region will be further destabilized.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus