Have we not yet learned anything of the limits of American hegemony? Even a cursory review of our post-Vietnam engagements in the Middle East shows a foreign policy almost entirely rooted in ineffectual militarism. Starting in the 1980s, we armed the Mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan (and thereby created Al Qaeda), had multiple encounters with Libya, supported Iraq against Iran, then attacked Iraq (Gulf War), involved ourselves in the Somali Civil War for no reason (“Blackhawk Down”), then Iraq II (Desert Fox), Afghanistan and Sudan (Operation “Distract from Lewinsky”), Afghanistan III, Iraq III, then we fumbled Egypt, attacked Yemen, Libya again, and found that the Muslim Brotherhood government we just backed in Egypt has collapsed into sectarian violence.
And now, because apparently we missed one, Syria must be bombed too.
Of course, for all this fighting, for all the bombs dropped and people killed, the Middle East is no more stable today, no more civilized, than it was thirty years ago. Secularists align themselves with Islamic extremists who fight against insurgents who align themselves with extremist Islamists. No matter which side we pick we always lose because both sides are basically the same side, at least with respect to their mutual disdain for the West and our notion of human rights.
Yet once again we find ourselves on the slow march to war with a barbaric Middle Eastern dictator of some tribal country that probably fewer than ten percent of Americans could find on a map.
Our computer guided fire and forget munitions are programmed and ready, the jets are fueled, the dictator du jour is posturing, and the talking heads over at CNN have just about completed their five minutes of Wikipedia research, they having finally broken away from their breathless around the clock coverage of Miley Cyrus.
All that remains is to find a reason to go.
We’re told that Syria’s Assad has committed all sorts of awful atrocities against his own people, which could be said for any number of other dictators in any number of other equally backwards countries. We’re also told that in the process he used chemical weapons, which is somehow more evil than killing people with conventional weapons.
This, of course, is all pretextual.
President Obama’s forthcoming attack on Syria has nothing to do with Syria. And it really has nothing to do with American interests.
This is a war in defense of internationalism, and while the Assad regime is the target, the real enemy is the very idea that American interests should control America’s direction. It’s a war to redefine America’s place in the world, from autonomous nation governed by self-interest, to a servile member-nation subjugated to internationalism, much the way our individual states have lost much of their autonomy to the federal government. How else to explain Obama’s attitude — both resigned and enthusiastic — that Syria’s violations of “international norms” (specifically the use of chemical weapons) practically compel America to act, whether we wish it or not?
This is why President Peace Prize has been so reluctant to consult Congress, and only agreed to do so after the British Parliament so strongly rebuked its own Prime Minister. Congress represents the American people and American interests, so to consult Congress is to acknowledge that American interests should control American policy. This is anathema for the Left (especially the academic Left), which for some time now has wished for little more than to reduce America from its elevated position as an autonomous superpower — responsible as it is for all the evils in the world from Christopher Columbus onward — and reassign its economic and military decision-making power to international governing bodies.
That is not to say that we are going to attack Syria at the behest of other nations. Indeed, no other nation seems all that eager for us to do so. That’s irrelevant. This is not a war for other nations, it’s a war in furtherance of the international ideal: that world should be governed as a whole.
So under George W. Bush, the issue was whether America was justified in acting without the support of the international community. But under Obama, the issue is whether America may withhold support when the international community, or international law, or internationalism itself demands it. This is not an insignificant difference. The former demands permission, but the latter demands submission.
This represents an enormous leap toward the erosion of American autonomy, and a seismic shift on foreign policy. Under the Truman Doctrine, rooted as it was in American self-interest, we controlled our destiny and made the world safer for ourselves. Under the Obama Doctrine, rooted in American subordination to the greater god of international rule, the world through its various international bodies and laws controls our destiny for its own ends.
And this is what you get when you elect a self-described “citizen of the world” as your President.
In all likelihood, Congress will rebuke Obama — assuming, that is, that John Boehner comes out of hiding — as the Republican majority has long awaited the opportunity to rebuke him on anything, and they will have no shortage of support from the doves on the Left. And even if we do go to war, we know the outcome already: a few missiles will hit a few targets, some innocent people will die, Assad will stay in power, and the next time he wants to kill his own people he’ll use conventional weapons only, because at least that doesn’t violate “international norms.”
And once we’ve seen a few days of those point-of-view videos taken from the cameras mounted in the tips of the missiles, then we can all return our attention to the ever-escalating arms race of look-at-me debauchery between Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. Oh those two!