Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Hate Politics: Obama's Syria Stratagem

Why did Barrack Obama want to bomb Syria? The official reasons seem flimsy at best, suspect at worst. It certainly wasn’t about the children. If giving a shit about the welfare of children were an actual priority for Washington, millions of kids wouldn’t be suffering from hunger, illness, homelessness, crime, and lack of education right here right now in the USA.

Syria does not threaten the United States or its allies and is embroiled in a tragic yet internal conflict. The country’s dictator Bashar Al-Assad is probably guilty of war crimes, which makes him just the latest in a long line of dictators from around the world who have committed war crimes ever since “war crime” was defined, more often than we’d care to admit, with the blessing of the US.

Why would a President who took office in the aftermath of the worst war in American history want to throw the country right into a new one? And why now? As an American citizen with no interest or stake in the minutiae of Beltway politics and punditry, this concerns me.

We probably won't know the real reasons until decades from now when the President’s memoirs are written and genuinely relevant information is declassified. From my vantage point two thousand miles and several spheres of power removed, there are two reasons I’ve come up with that haven’t been discusses on the Sunday yak shows:

He has nothing else to do. The lack of progress being made on the domestic front is difficult to ignore. Obama’s domestic agenda is only marginally more substantial than his predecessor George W. Bush, who had no domestic agenda. Obama’s top priority in regards to the US seemed to be getting Wall Street back on track, which he has to spectacular effect, assuming you’re very wealthy.

Other than that, the Republicans seem ready to stonewall him on anything. Unemployment refuses to improve dramatically, the country’s infrastructure continues to break down, and the social order continues to polarize into Patricians and Peasants, all amidst the periodic random slaughter of innocent people by broken individuals with access to powerful guns. While he gives speeches about these problems, Obama has not really shown a desire to make solving them a real priority. Perhaps, in the calculus of national politics, under the guise of “sending a message” or “enforcing international norms,” Obama’s administration saw an opportunity to do something that shows he’s still in office while protecting against a slide into irrelevance.

The Military-Industrial Complex got to him. To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The desire to maintain the President’s role as The Decider, the constant buzzing from hawkish political lifers like John McCain (people for whom there is no issue that cannot be solved by war), the callousness that comes with ordering bomb strikes on targets that are thousands of miles away and can't hit back – all of these can be powerful inducements for the most powerful person in the world to use just a little of the most powerful military in world history to affect change. A large population segment of citizens who reflexively support anything involving The Troops also helps.

As Obama found out in the last weeks, though, this country doesn't want another war. Alternative plans were in motion almost as soon as the first polls were published showing the majority of Americans do not back the President’s plans or reasoning, whether it’s because they don’t like him or they don’t like what another conflict in the Middle East might mean.

This episode won't ruin Obama's Presidency the way Republicans claim, but it does add to the list of events that will be fascinating to study further in a few years once we’re able to get more perspective and more of the inside story from Obama’s staffers as well as the man himself.

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