Friday, August 30, 2013


A speculation on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the imminence of a US military strike:

Why did whoever ordered a major chemical assault decide to do it?

Most likely the responsibility for the attack falls on Assad and the Syrian military. Certainly, though, they had to know that Obama would feel compelled to deliver a response, that there was a real risk of a US military strike. One answer given is that it was a tactical military decision driven by desperation over the regime’s inability to clear out rebel-held areas near Damascus. I speculate that it may also have been a strategic decision to call Obama’s “bluff” and drag the US into an open act of intervention, which they expected could only be limited, unpopular, and futile. Surviving a limited US military response could change the dynamic from a civil war to one in which the Syrian government appears as defending Arab nations against US imperialist intervention.

If this speculation is more than “conspiracy theory", there are a couple of caveats. Despite the fact, as probably expected, that the US resort to a military response has run into enormous difficulties mustering support, the “strategists” may have miscalculated. The overwhelming opposition to a US military assault doesn’t alter the reaction of universal horror over the use of chemical warfare and other forms of slaughter inflicted on the Syrian people. They may also have underestimated the destructive effects and consequences of even a time-limited military strike.

None of these considerations alter the fact that another military intervention by the US in the Middle East will be another tragic and illegal action that makes matters far worse. Nor do they lessen the folly of declaring “red lines” that reduce serious problems to a big and deadly game of chicken.

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