President Barack Obama announced Sept.10 that the U.S. military would build an international coalition to make “war on the Islamic State.” He said there were already 10 countries in this coalition. Administration spokespeople on the Sept. 14 Sunday morning talk shows said they were still building the coalition. The next morning a conference of 30 countries opened in Paris on this theme.
The electronic media and the pages of major newspapers — the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Christian Science Monitor, for example — were filled with debate on Obama’s new war policy. Active and retired Pentagon officers, State Department officials, policy strategists from the imperialist think tanks and op-ed writers all put out their critiques of Obama’s strategy of opening another long U.S. war while promising no U.S. “boots on the ground.”
Arguments raged from “just right” to “too little, too late,” with only a few saying “no way.” Many of the retired officers — for example, General Jack Keane, who urges a policy even more aggressive than what Obama proposes — are currently sitting on the boards of military contractors. That’s one sector of U.S. capitalism that gains from war, whichever way the battle goes.
That this debate is going on in front of the public reflects hesitations within the U.S. ruling class about the wisdom of waging yet another open-ended U.S. war of conquest in West Asia. More important than reviewing their arguments is the need to stress what this debate is really about: They are discussing what foreign policy will best defend and expand the strategic and economic interests of the U.S. ruling class.
What’s at stake are the interests of the richest one hundredth of the 1%, those who own the oil companies, the weapons industry, the banks and the other major monopolies. To the debaters, this tiny but super-wealthy and powerful group’s interests are paramount.
Far from aiding Syrians or Iraqis, U.S. imperialism’s aims are antagonistic to the interests of the masses of people there. Washington’s new war also has nothing to do with defending the interests of the working class in the United States. It will not protect the Black people of Ferguson, Mo., from racist cops. It will not protect workers from low wages and layoffs. There is already talk of raising the Pentagon budget, thereby exempting it from sequester cuts imposed on the federal budget.
What U.S. policy did
Starting with the war in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions against the Iraqi people, followed by the invasion in 2003 that led to eight years of occupation, U.S. war crimes tore Iraqi society apart. U.S.-led wars and sanctions killed between 1 million and 2 million people. They demolished Iraq’s economic infrastructure and drove 5 million more into exile. U.S. occupation policies divided Iraqi society and provoked a sectarian civil war.
Washington and its allies in NATO and West Asia have also caused great loss of life and destruction in Syria. NATO, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, weaponized the groups fighting the Syrian government. Most arms wound up in the hands of groups like al-Nusrah Front and ISIS (also called ISIL or just I.S.). Hundreds of thousands of people were killed; millions became refugees. Without NATO and Saudi Arabian aid, ISIS would have stayed local.
Various media claim that the repeated showing of two reporters from the U.S. and one from Britain being executed by ISIS have whipped up some popular fervor for “revenge” — although this mood falls short of support for another Iraq-type war.
While popular revulsion to the televised beheadings is understandable, think of what U.S. imperialism has done. U.S. weapons killed millions of Iraqis and Syrians. They, like the reporters, were victims of terror.
Much ruling-class debate involves what relationship the U.S. should have with the governments of Syria and Iran. Washington has demonized these two governments and steadily worked to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria and sabotage the economy of Iran. Yet both Syria and Iran have been on the front lines fighting against ISIS.
So far, U.S. spokespeople insist they will make no agreements with Syria or Iran. Actually, there is good reason to suspect that — should the “war on ISIS” be successful — it will quickly morph into a U.S. war against Syria.
It is the pinnacle of imperialist arrogance to pose, as many have in the ruling-class debate, the question: “Should the U.S. help resolve the conflicts in the Middle East?”
Washington’s past interventions have brought only misery and suffering to the region. From the point of view of the interests of all the people involved in the region, as well as those of the working class here, the only thing the U.S. can rightly do is get out, stay out and pay reparations to rebuild what it has wrecked.