There is scant morality in western military intervention these days. Tony Blair returned this week from beyond the grave and showed no concern for justice, reason or even national interest. He is a confirmed Iraq disaster-denier. Civilisation may advance in leaps and bounds over millennia, but politics remains stuck in Homer's day, in human vanity and tribal loyalty. . . .The unrolling chaos in Syria and Iraq gives the lie to all simple notions of success, failure, right, wrong, democracy, authoritarianism, and so on. At the moment the U.S. is debating whether to use air strikes to support the Iranian militias we were denouncing a few weeks ago as the worst evil on the planet. I find myself thinking that we should forget about helping to overthrow Syria's Assad and instead help him win his civil war -- he is a vicious thug, but could his rule be worse than an interminable civil war that, besides killing people and destroying their homes, is mainly empowering the same Sunni fanatics we have been fighting since 9-11? A third of their country has fallen to ragtag rebels, but the Maliki government that we installed at such vast cost is still refusing to negotiate with any Sunnis whatsoever, despite the urgings of both the US and Iran. Now people are saying that we should remove him, or make his resignation a condition of any further aid.
It beggars belief that further military intervention by the west in Iraq is now being considered. Yet the yearning to intervene, to bomb someone even if just to "send a message", shows how thin is the veneer of sanity cloaking great power aggression. War still has the best tunes. How glorious it must seem to certain politicians to somehow turn 10 years of disaster in Iraq into a final victory.
That is why the causes and effects of 2003 must be nailed to the wall, time and again. Trillions of dollars were spent and tens of thousands of people died, for no good reason then and no good reason now. It was a total disgrace.
In the midst of this great mess there are still people calling for simple solutions -- besides the war-mad neocons who want to surge back in and fight it all over again, there is this strange plea placed in the New York Times by liberal interventionist Anne-Marie Slaughter, under the title Don't Fight in Iraq and Ignore Syria:
When a government begins to massacre its own citizens, with chemical weapons, barrel bombs and starvation, as Syria’s continues to do, it must be stopped. If it is not stopped, violence, displacement and fanaticism will flourish. Deciding that the Syrian government, as bad as it is, was still better than the alternative of ISIS profoundly missed the point. As long as we allow the Syrian government to continue perpetrating the worst campaign of crimes against humanity since Rwanda, support for ISIS will continue. As long as we choose Prime Minister Maliki over the interests of his citizens, all his citizens, his government can never be safe.As if the President had a magic wand he could wave that would turn the governments of Syria and Iran into humanitarian democracies and their citizens into unprejudiced, law-abiding democrats.
We cannot give either the Syrians or the Iraqis a good government. We cannot unsnarl the mess that is the Middle East. We cannot bring peace.
The best thing we can possibly do is get out of the way.