Analysis: The folly of a western strike on SyriaBy Asia Sentinel Aug 29, 2013 11:45AM UTC
Asia should join China in telling the US to forget it, writes Asia Sentinel’s Philip Bowring
America’s Asian allies should join China in warning against the west’s planned strike on Syria, supposedly a punishment for alleged (probably accurate) use of gas in its war against insurgents. This outburst of sanctimony will do nothing to bring a brutal multi-party civil war to an end but it will show once again how western countries like to create so-called “rules of war” to suit their own interests.
For sure, the Assad regime is brutal and will use almost any means to stay in power, even if that power is only exercised in a portion of the nation while the rest becomes a fragmented group of ethnic, religious and other fiefdoms. It is indeed shocking that the regime endeavored to “cleanse” a district held by opposition forces with an indiscriminate weapon.
But it pious nonsense to throw around words such as “barbaric,” “evil” and “inhuman” to describe this form of attack while high explosive bombs or napalm would have done just as much indiscriminate damage to civilian populations.
Indeed in a civil war almost everyone is engaged whether they like it or not, which explains why civil wars are always singularly brutal. It has always been the case that the mass slaughter of men, women and children has been the explicit threat behind sieges of cities just as the use of mass bombing of cities was used by the US and its allies against Germany as Germany had previously done against Britain.
Whether such terror tactics work is questionable but they are not unusual. Likewise the US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been primarily aimed at individuals or groups of insurgents, but the collateral damage – deaths of non-combatants – is acknowledged to be a threat to the population at large not to harbor insurgents.
President Obama has so far shown commendable restraint in not wanting to become embroiled in the multi-faceted Syrian war. But the western instinct for moralizing has been aroused by the instant emotion drummed up by reference to use of “chemical weapons,” as though high explosives were not chemicals.
The fact is that gas and related weapons are viewed as outlawed mainly because they are effective only in very limited circumstances because use on a larger scale cannot readily be controlled. Thus in the First World War gas attacks were known to blow back on the attackers.
This moralizing always comes easily to the Americans and British. As for France’s desire to be part of the punishment team, this is a throwback to its own lingering sense of ownership of Syria and Lebanon.
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