With Obama waiting for congressional approval for striking at Syria, questions about war and peace in the region fill the atmosphere all around. Some questions are discussed here with writers from US and abroad.
The conflict in Syria is in headlines these days, more so now when the American President Barack Obama has declared his plans for attacking Syria, raising questions about violating the constitution if he orders a military or air strike at Syria without Congressional approval. At the same time, Mr. Obama — who earlier had refused to visit Russia following Russia’s asylum to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden — has arrived in Russia and we see in media that Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the US against Obama’s planned attack on Syria. To discuss some of the important questions regarding this situation, I invited writers from various walks of life and expertise. Let me introduce my guests before the Q&A.
Frank Romano, PhD, Sorbonne University, Paris, is Maître de conférences at the University of Paris and member of the California and Marseille Bars. He teaches law, literature, history, and philosophy. He’s authored Love and Terror in the Middle East and Storm Over Morocco. Romano is an international peace activist and frequently organizes inter-faith peace events in the Israel-Palestine region. Readers may visit Dr. Romano online at his website .
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs. He can be visited online at http://samvak.tripod.com.
Dave Scotese lives in Southern California and does computer programming for people on the Internet, including laptopsforless, ereplacements, dollarvigilante, galtsgulchchile, tradingpits.net, voluntaryist.com, and libertopia.org. He is the founder of the online literary community Litmocracy.
Craig Kyzar is, among other things, a NYU-trained attorney with a background in international law. Now living far from the bright lights of New York, these days, Craig devotes the bulk of his time to literacy-based charity work and the pursuit of his own writing career.
Enest: First of all. I’d like to ask all of you how you look at the credibility of this claim made by the Obama administration that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the anti-government fighters?
Dave: I follow the logic that whatever claim a government institution makes, and especially those made by the highest institution, must have some important deception in it that the ruling class find particularly important to impose on the masses. I have not studied or paid much attention to the claim or the evidence that may support or counter it, simply because too much of the time, the PR undertaken by rulers is an effort to distract the masses from things that trouble the ruling class. In this case, the negligence that led to the death of a UU diplomat in Benghazi, the scandals about IRS behavior, the growing resentment of NSA spying, and the ongoing illegal, unconstitutional US government programs that are destroying the USA seem to be very troubling to the ruling class. Since government lives on the perceptions of the masses, it is of utmost import to the ruling class to distract the masses away from these issues that shine bright lights on their horrible and destructive behavior.
Sam: If true, it indicates the disintegration of central authority in Syria. Al-Assad is losing his grip on power and local commanders are taking matters into their own hands, forming militias, and carving out territories. Syria is becoming a second Lebanon. It would defy logic for the increasingly more victorious Assad regime to hand such a trump card (chemical warfare attack) to the rebels. If it did happen, it must have been a local initiative.
Ernest: Sam, do you see a US-or UN-led war as inevitable here?
Sam: A US punitive mission is inevitable, but it will be short and ineffective. I do not foresee any war.
Ernest: What is your assessment of this scenario? Given that there are widespread speculations that the Obama admin has joined hands with Al-Qaeda to fight this war which has this sectarian element to it, do you see any connection between the Obama admin’s position against Syria?
Sam: To suggest that any American administration would be collaborating with al-Qaida on any issue is to profess to profound ignorance on Middle-East affairs. This is not about atrocities. It is about stabilizing a critical flank of the region in order to be able to concentrate on the far more threatening descent of Egypt into chaos. Removing or considerably weakening Assad will create a stalemate in Syria and remove the danger of a spillover war between Israel – and its pro-Western tacit Sunni allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia – and its neighbors. It will allow the US and Israel to tackle Hamas and to prevent it from weaponizing the civil war in Egypt. Syria is a meaningless nuisance that is distracting the West from dealing with the real menace of Egypt and North Africa.
Ernest: Before I move to Frank, I would like to know what all of you think about how this war will benefit anyone?
Dave: War is a racket, intended to enrich those close to the ruling class, on both sides. It’s like a game wherein each side does its best to encourage their own citizens to contribute financial support to “the war efforts,” thus enriching those in a position to provide the services that wars require. Major Smedley Butler gave a speech in the 1930s called “War is a Racket”, and I recommend that everyone carefully read the short book version he made after the speech has been received so well.
Sam: What war? There is no war. There is no talk of war. There is a debate regarding a limited punitive mission, no more
Frank: The risk of a desperate reaction by an indecisive president Obama is for him to take feverish, impetuous steps to silence his critics by shooting himself out of a canon, without a clearly thought out plan at the expense of thousands who will absorb his fervor and - his crushing bombs. This is a dangerous combination of juggling one’s personal issues and personal failures with the lives of thousands of innocent people. In light of the above, Mr. Obama, full of himself, his rhetoric, and perhaps megalomania, is preoccupied now with his legacy but should pull the reins of his futile attempts to make history as one of the greatest US presidents by mindlessly bombing Syria at the expense of thousands of innocent lives. In conclusion, even though Obama is greatly motivated to engage in war to benefit his legacy and to quell the pens of critics, he will soon discover that such a futile war will further push his “legacy” to the back burner of highlights of all US presidencies. In other words, the war will benefit no one.
Ernest: Russia and China both have opposed Obama’s plan to strike at Syria, Russia particularly in pretty strong words. And Russia actually is a military ally of Syria. How alarming is this opposition from other militarily strong powers siding with Syria?
Dave: It is not alarming at all. Our planet is well enough connected now that one must always assume that those running a war have some kind of game plan to run a friendly competition so that no one (in their ruling-class circles) gets hurt. The death and pain and suffering and financial burden is a benefit to the ruling class on both sides, and any posturing can safely be assumed to be part of their efforts to encourage their citizens to sacrifice themselves. Very much depressing to see them work together in such deception, but not alarming, nor unexpected.
Sam: Russia is not a strong power, though it likes to think of itself this way. It is a dilapidated shadow of its former self, the megalomania of its narcissistic and coarse leader, Putin, notwithstanding. China has no meaningful military presence in the Middle East (or elsewhere, for that matter.) They can block a UN resolution, but this is just about the extent of their “power”. There is only one player on stage: the USA. All the others are minions, wannabes, and cronies. France and Israel may act as proxies for the USA and the UK in this conflict.
Frank: In fact, that is not as alarming as Mr. Obama’s ignoring three red flags that should tell him to engage in this crisis with more caution: for the first time in years, the UK has voted not to support US military endeavors, especially in the Middle East; for the first time since before Mubarak became the dictator of Egypt, the leaders in charge of government there (now the Egyptian Military) have denied support of US military actions to bomb Syria; a potential military response to the bombing by Hezbollah and Iran may erupt in a 3rd world war in the Middle East.
Ernest: Frank, as a peace activist working for pace in the Israel-Palestine region, what implications do you foresee for an American-led strike against the Syrian state?
Frank: To answer that question, one must first ask on what grounds is the US basing its decision to bomb Syria? Assuming it has been definitively proven that Mr. Assad used chemical weapons, his actions are clearly in violation of international law. But should it be enforced by a small group of countries led by the US? Does the US need to thrust forward as the World Police, Billy club in hand? I suppose the US has never violated international law, nor has it been an accomplice in aiding and abetting another country systematically violating international law. One example, among others, is the blind support in the form of financial and military aid to Israel by the US government which allows the former to continue its unbridled occupation of the West Bank. As an American, I am not proud of the rampant hypocrisy of the US government. As such, the blatant hypocrisy of the US, once again, undermines its credibility thereby casting a darker shadow over today’s peace efforts.
Ernest: Dave, what do you think about the way mainstream media in America is presenting this issue?
Dave: I have ignored it nearly completely. The fact that several attempts have been made to take my attention off my own interests and redirect them toward this game of horror played by the elites to sucker their citizens into hurting each other in unwitting efforts to enrich those elites serves only to confirm my suspicion that the war has a dual purpose. One purpose is to distract the masses of the whole planet from the growing awareness that governments generally do one thing well, and that is to divide people into a parasitic class and a host class. My morals prohibit me from joining the parasite, so I am left with the host, and I make every attempt to help others recognize the trap and resist the divisive and destructive effects of governments the world over. The other purpose is to enrich the parasitic class.
Ernest: And do you feel the current US government will be acting democratically if it decides to go to war with Syria.
Dave: Yes, my understanding of the word “democratic” fits what I perceive to be the behavior of the US government. A rigorous study of democracy showed the founding fathers of the USA that it is a horrible form of government that serves to speed up the progression of class divisions, bringing about the host-parasite relationship more quickly than other forms of government. Hans-Hermann Hoppe edited an excellent volume, The Myth of National Defense, which explores how war plays into this development. Once one recognizes the fatal flaw of democracy, that it magnifies the effects of government, the largest of which is divisiveness, by disenfranchising those with strong morals and collecting and encouraging those more apt to allow and enjoy living parasitically off other humans, it is clear that the US government is acting democratically. The power that democracy transfers from the individual to the collective is awesome in a terrible way, and our wars will continue to demonstrate this until populations learn to ignore their governments’ demand for support.
Ernest: Suppose the US does go to war with Syria, let’s say Obama has the vote of approval from Congress, what can be done to prevent the war or minimize its impact? What an average American do?
Dave: Many people have already started looking into the “Tax Honesty” movement specifically because they do not wish to support war. Many who have not looked into it chose rather to become “War Resisters” – people who withhold some of the tax they are deceived into thinking they owe. Cutting the financial support is a small and effective way to help minimize the impact of governments. Reminding those employed by the government that “I was just doing my job” is a moral dilemma from which there is no easy escape can help encourage them to find better work than doing the bidding of the psychopaths most people call politicians.
Ernest: Craig, could you please tell us briefly how the US constitution allows or binds the US President in a matter like this?
Craig: Any analysis of war powers in this country must always begin with Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. This clause very plainly grants Congress the exclusive power to declare war on behalf of the United States. However, it does not presume to grant Congress exclusive power over the military. In short, it says that only Congress can declare war, but makes no suggestion that a declaration of war must be a necessary prerequisite for military action.
Despite a number of armed offensives over the past half-century, a formal declaration of war has not been issued since June of 1942. The reason is that Article II, Section 2 also clearly delineates the President as the commander in chief of our military forces, creating a gray area within which a president can deploy and control military forces short of all-out war. Since the end of World War II, presidents have used this clause to bypass congressional approval for military action.
In an attempt to assert itself, Congress enacted the War Powers Act in 1973, requiring a president to obtain congressional approval within 90 days after deploying military forces into combat. But this act has been largely relegated to a political issue, historically ignored by presidents insistent that their actions are supported by the Constitution in a way that overrides any conflicting legislation.
Ernest: And what about the International Law? Does the Syrian government have a right to prevent an attack on its state by taking the matter to the UN?
Craig: Of course, a recognized nation-state has the sovereign right to defend itself against external attack by any legal recourse necessary, be it diplomatic or military. As long as treaties and customary international law are observed, defense of one’s soil is a fundamental right and expectation. It is the Assad regime’s internal actions against the Syrian people that raise matters of international law and countless human rights violations.
Ernest: Say if the Congress doesn’t approve Obama’s plan for war and votes against it, and if the President still goes to war with Syria, can he be made accountable constitutionally?
Craig: As stated above, we must be careful not to confuse the popular interpretation of “war” with a constitutional one. As Obama himself has said, "I would not be going to Congress if I wasn't serious about consultations.” In other words, this seeking of congressional authorization may be a wise political move both to gauge support for a limited scope offensive and to put his opposition on the hot seat, but he believes he holds the ultimate authority to order a strike against Syrian forces even should a vote not go his way.
Constitutionally and historically, such authority would seem to be on his side as commander in chief, especially within the first 90 days. When acting within the scope of powers granted to him under the Constitution, the president has no obligation to tailor his actions to the wishes of the legislative branch. Nor may the legislature create any laws to limit executive power in contravention of the United States Constitution.
Ultimately a question of domestic law and interpretation, the matter would be well beyond the authority of any international arbiter. As with most such cases, accountability will rest in the hands of the American people and the passing of political – not legal – judgment over any action or inaction ultimately taken.
Ernest: To conclude this session, let me ask Frank, will you be leading any peace events in the coming days to call for prevention of this potential attack by the US?
Frank: I will be returning to the Middle East on Sept. 10th and will lead dialogues and freedom marches in Israel and Palestine. My focus is freedom for Palestinians from the horrible occupation. Many Israelis will also participate as the wall has created prisoners on both sides. However, we will surely be joined by activists against the potential attack of Syria by the US. They will be welcome.
Ernest: Dave, Sam, Craig, and Frank, thank you all for sharing your views here on this very important issue!
Frank Romano’s latest article on Baret News explores the issue of war plan for Syria in peace and humanitarian context.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com