John Kerry may have some sense after all
During the last two decades or so American foreign policy has been difficult to characterized. First we have the invasion of Iraq, under the false pretenses of Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction and being in cahoots with al-Qaeda, which only succeeded in eliminating a valuable buffer state toward Iran and radical Sunni Islam. The result of this invasion was the sowing of sectarian chaos in Iraq, which empowered Iran, the arch-rival of the US in the Middle East, and enabled the rise of groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and ISIL.
Then there was the fall of Libya, in which Qaddafi was overthrown with the aid of American and European airstrikes. The result was sectarian and tribal chaos. Weapons, including weaponized chemical agents, were transferred from Qadaffi’s ransacked stockpiles to jihadi groups throughout the Middle East, particularly Syria. In Benghazi the American ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed by jihadis during a siege of a CIA annex. Currently ISIL is expanding in Libya and threatening to either destroy or take control of oil resources in the area. The situation is so dire that there are reports of a Western intervention in Libya.
On to Egypt where the Americans supported the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak and helped replace him with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The situation in Egypt was beginning to descend into chaos until the general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi staged a successful coup and brought some semblance of stability to Egypt, much to the chagrin of the US.
In Syria a brutal civil war has been waged for 5 years, which to date has killed 260,000 people, including 76,000 civilians, and has forced millions to flee their homes. Bashar al-Assad has clung tenaciously to power and, with the support of his allies Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, has been able to maintain his regime’s survival at great cost. Against Assad has been a motley array of rebel groups, some labelled moderate, but most of them of the extremist Sunni variety such as ISIL, Jabat al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and others. These groups, to varying degrees, have been supported by Western and Sunni nations, including the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In effect we are allying ourselves with Islamist terrorists to overthrow Assad.
Such were the fruits of American foreign policy in the Middle East. In many ways the only common theme that can be discerned from it is that in all these countries chaos has been sown and that militant Islamist groups were strengthened. Is it possible that this chaos was intentionally desired or was it unintentional, the result of geopolitical incompetence and the naive belief in implementing liberal democracy in the Middle East? Is it just happenstance that groups like ISIL and al-Nusra have been strengthened by American foreign policy? I will let you come to your own conclusions on these matters.
No matter what the specific motivation of American foreign policy, it does appear to be nonsensical. Yet, this nonsense is not limited to the US government, but also to numerous Western and Sunni pundits and policy wonks, who incessantly argue and demand that Assad must go. They will bring up Assad’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and his starvation of civilians to morally buttress their argument. They admonish the US to take greater action within Syria. One of their favorite polices is the implementation and enforcement of a no-fly zone over the skies of Syria.
Now, very few people will categorize Bashar al-Assad as a saint, but the pertinent question is not whether Assad is good or bad, but what will be the likely alternative if he is removed from power? Phrased differently will the replacement be even worse than Assad? The other important question is what will be the cost of ousting Assad? The experts demand a no-fly zone in Syria, but do they not realize what such a course of action would entail?
Russian fighters and bombers are currently in operation in Syria’s skies. Do you really believe Putin will meekly comply with a Western mandated no-fly zone in Syria and ground his warplanes? I don’t. It is more likely that Putin will stand his ground and that the US will have to implement the no-fly zone with military force. In other words America and Russian aircraft will be engaged in aerial combat with one another. Does this sound like a sensible plan?
If Russian aircraft are shot down by American jets, or vice versa, what will stop such a conflict from escalating, with the worse case scenario being a world war involving the use of tactical and even strategic nuclear weapons.
So to ‘save’ the Syrian people, we are advised by the ‘experts’ to take a course of action that could lead to a nuclear war between Russia and the US, a war that could kill millions of Syrians, Russians, Americans, and others–maybe even billions could be killed in the event of all out nuclear war. To me such a course of action is the height of insanity.
However there does seem to be some sanity shining through within the US government. Surprisingly it comes from the Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the key crafters of American foreign policy, or at the least the preeminent face of that foreign policy, and what a ghastly visage it is. Regardless of Kerry’s Lurch like facial features, at least he has recently displayed some sense.
While in Geneva at the rather unsuccessful peace talks pertaining to the Syrian Civil War , Kerry, while speaking to an aid worker with respect to America’s involvement in Syria, reportedly said, “What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?”
I have been worried that some in the US administration were attempting to provoke Russia into a conflict, but if we are believe what Kerry said in Geneva, then at least there are some in power who are cognizant of and wary of a conflict with Russia.
Kerry’s sentiment may explain why America has been recently dithering and vacillating vis-à-vis Syria, as they may understand that their hands are tied by Russia’s presence in Syria, and they do not want to risk a potentially devastating overt confrontation.
Of course many, especially hawkish conservatives and neo-conservatives, will bemoan the weakness of Kerry and by extension the weakness of President Obama. Maybe they are right that Kerry and Obama are geopolitically speaking weaklings, but in this circumstance their weakness is beneficial, at least to us normal people, as it will prevent war between the US and Russia, a war that could possibly go nuclear.
Now it is possible that Kerry’s remarks, were meaningless. That he was lying to the aid worker, or that he is not really that powerful in the grand scheme of things or that the neo-conservative influence and desire for confrontation with Russia will overwhelm whatever minimal good scene that Kerry and Obama have. However, the greatest danger to me seems to be the future President of the US.
If a hawkish candidate gets elected President of the US, such as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton (I suspect that although she is a ‘democrat’ she is still apart of the hawkish foreign policy establishment) then sanity most likely will not prevail. Instead, partly to make up for the perceived and actual weakness of Obama, such a future President may not back down to Putin and will seek to show their strength and pugnacity against him. While many Americans may welcome a more assertive foreign policy, they should stop and think what the consequences of such a policy could be. With regards to Syria it could very well lead to global disaster.