Intervention in the Name of Stability
Professor Noam Chomsky recently delivered an important address in Amsterdam entitled “Contours of the World Order.”1 A large part of the speech was devoted to the role of the United States in defending its area of absolute hegemony. According to Chomsky’s excellent analysis, the US relates to all countries with a simple rule of behavior. They must honor obligations stemming from US control and domination, and governments which refuse to behave according to this universal principle will be the objects of US reprisals up to and including direct military threat to their very existence. Chomsky sums it up with his characteristic incisiveness. If you are on the US team, then you are part of the stability that must be treasured above all else. If you challenge US hegemony, you are an enemy of stability.
It is necessary to understand that this US policy has nothing to do with the internal nature of the given regime. Iraq was attacked, as we suspected, because it challenged US dictates regarding its use of its own oil. The nature of Sadaam Hussein’s regime or the scope of his repression against the people of Iraq was totally irrelevant when the US decided that he was getting out of line.
Regarding Iran, Chomsky explains that no military or security danger emanates from the Islamic Republic. The simple truth is that the carefully cultivated US-Israeli hysteria build-up stems from Iran’s success in the diplomatic and political field.
Apologetics for US-NATO Intervention
It is almost a full-time job following the intensive debate in large sections of the left regarding the US-NATO intervention in Libya. The pro-interventionist current has an important spokesperson in the highly respected person of Prof. Gilbert Achcar, a theoretician close to the radical left. Achcar, who speaks for a minority of the left, supported UN intervention and the “no fly” zone, but did criticize the interpretation of the UNSC resolution 1973 which allowed for bombing the country. Achcar holds to the position that the US-NATO intervention was justified by the danger to Benghazi which would have fallen to the merciless Gadaffi. In his most recent comments on events in Libya, Achcar warns against foreign “boots on the ground” but sticks to his support for the rebel National Transitional Council and calls for massive arms shipments to the rebels.2
This position appears to your humble correspondent to be seriously flawed. Senator John McCain was in Benghazi also calling for arms for the rebels. At this point in the debate we have thoroughly examined all the theoretical approaches to the question and have entered the world of practical politics. A war is going on in Libya sponsored, administered, and conducted by the US-NATO. The purpose of this war at this stage is to effect regime change without which the US-NATO will suffer a humiliating disgrace. One might argue that Gadaffi was guilty of attempts to snuff out the democratic elements in Libya which had raised the flag of the Arab democratic revolution and who should have received full support from the left.
However, by centering our whole analysis on the crimes of Gadaffi, we encounter a serious difficulty. This is the same difficulty that we encountered regarding the drive for intervention against a long list of unsavory characters, including the likes of Sadaam Hussein, the Taliban, or even El Qaida. Experience provides ample evidence that confrontation between the US, acting in its imperial interests, and the local tyrants, reactionaries, and fundamentalists enables the most reactionary sections of society to present themselves as the legitimate voices of authentic identity and patriotism. This dynamic, which develops intensely, at the heart of almost all interventions, actually prevents the growth and development of the social forces that carry the seed of genuine emancipation and reform.
The pro-independence, pro-democracy forces in Libyan society, even if they were as originally influential at the beginning of the crisis as some believe, could not have conceivably survived as a significant force when the fight against the Gaddafi forces was taken over, subverted, and recast as a battle to impose the will of the US-NATO coalition in order “to save civilization and the free world.” The world has seen just how this kind of subversion ends. By virtue of its results, the US is still in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues the frenzied establishment of additional new military bases all over the globe. The name of this game is the right of intervention versus the right of self determination.
Syria in Crisis
As reports of large-scale military and police attacks on peaceful demonstrating Syrian civilians are verified from objective sources, it will be the obligation of all democrats to call on the Assad regime to cease and desist immediately from such practices. Even so, we do not live in a romantic pseudo-democratic wonderland and we cannot be indifferent to the nature of the opposition in Syria, especially since it is known that Syria is composed of a complex patchwork of ethnic and sectarian entities. The empirical evidence of US involvement in the past so-called “velvet-color” revolutions will, as has happened invariably in the past, also surface here at a later stage regarding the crisis in Syria.
There are unkind souls who will insist that all those who warn of US subversion and CIA provocations are claiming that the demonstrations and the protests in Syria are the work of the CIA. This is, of course, a gross falsification. The principles of the anti-interventionist position are clear. There is every reason to believe that the mass protests in Syria reflect serious, genuine defects and weaknesses in the Assad regime. But the crisis in Syria activates the hope in Washington for a pro-US regime in Damascus. And if this is not possible, the US and its faithful supporters might well prefer the disintegration of Syria into an ethnic-sectarian hodgepodge.
Up till now, the Syrian government has defended, over the years, its sovereignty and its independence against US pressures. It has acted with a modicum of solidarity and sensitivity to the Palestinian cause, when dictators such as Mubarak were openly conspiring with the US and Israel against the rights of the Palestinian people.
The survival of the Syrian government depends, in the final analysis, on its deserving the confidence and support of the Syrian masses. Syria does have enemies but this is good reason for it not to become its own worst enemy.
1 Noam Chomsky, “Is the World Too Big to Fail? The Contours of Global Order” (TomDispatch.com, 21 April 2011).
2 Gilbert Achcar, “The Libyan Insurrection Between Gaddafi’s Hammer, NATO’s Anvil and the Left’s Confusion: Results and Prospects” (ZNet, 23 April 2011).
Reuven Kaminer is a veteran Israeli activist. This article was first published in his blog From the Desk of Reuven Kaminer on 28 April 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.