Sucking Syria Into the ‘Long War’


Whatever the merits of the intelligence debate concerning the use of poison gas in Syria, a U.S. military attack–i.e., a U.S. act of war in the absence of any clear and present danger—will please three groups: Saudi kleptocrats, Israeli extremists, and U.S. war profiteers. These three groups will be enriched and empowered by U.S. military action, whether it succeeds or not, further strengthening two pernicious and mutually reinforcing trends: the militaristic and anti-democratic U.S. national security state and the radicalization of Muslim political activism.

In the raging debate over the merits of a U.S. military attack on Syria, it should suffice to give pause to all who care about the long-term interests of the American people that, regardless of what else happens, three groups stand to benefit from both a U.S. attack itself and any continuing chaos that results. The first group is the tight family faction of Saudi kleptocrats that runs Saudi Arabia as a private business to extract and pocket the profits of the export of Saudi oil. This is the fine set of folks who brought us, via their long-term deal with Salafi fundamentalists (political power to the Sauds, cultural/educational control to the Salafis later supplemented by allowing jihad abroad in return for peace within Saudi borders), bin Laden. They want a Mideast managed by conservative dictators and anyone else, e.g., Israelis and Americans, with whom they can buy favor…as long as the local Arab populations are kept securely marginalized from political power. 

The second group is those right-wing politicians, military and intel leaders, and Zionist fundamentalists who place their bets on an Israeli national security policy of military dominance, military force as the primary means of conflict resolution, ethnic cleansing of all of classical Palestine…in short, traditional 19th century European colonialism plus messianic fundamentalist Zionism on top. This group wants regional military hegemony (where “region” has gone from Palestine in the 1950s to Lebanon in the 1980s to Iraq in the 1990s and all the way to Iran today), preferably with U.S. soldiers doing the dying. 

The third group is the classic U.S. military-industrial complex about which President Eisenhower so famously warned us. This group of millionaire CEOs of the corporations that make arms and profit the most by wars that last forever—regardless of who wins—is now greatly strengthened by the metastasizing gang of financial barons enriching themselves by betting on…everything. Since they carefully place their bets, in any case using other people’s money, on both sides, they also care little about the outcome. 

Saudi kleptocrats, Israeli empire-builders, and U.S. war profiteers thrive in a world of centralized control, chaos, tension, and—to use the repulsive phrase that has become so popular since 9/11 in certain quarters—“long war.”

Just as peace, democracy, and a rise in the general social welfare constitute the “Common Good” basket of future options, so do Saudi kleptocratic dictatorship, Zionist militarism, and the U.S. military-financial-intelligence complex constitute a second basket of future options…the “Long War” basket. One can mix and match any way one wants over the short term, but in the long run, these two baskets of options for our socio-political future are almost surely mutually exclusive, and it is very difficult to imagine (and certainly Obama has made no effort to explain) how a U.S. attack on Syria could avoid weighing the scales in favor of the dark and looming “Long War.”

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