In the Intercept, Dan Froomkin writes that ‘Obama Knew Arming Rebels [in Syria] Was Useless, But Did it Anyway.’ His argument is based on a “New York Times story about how President Obama asked the CIA a while back whether arming rebel forces – pretty much the agency’s signature strategy — had ever worked in the past.” It’s important to note that “worked” here, though never spelled out, essentially means “toppled the side that wasn’t U.S.-compliant in favor of one that’d bow to us in return for arming opposition forces.”
Froomkin largely chalks up Obama’s decision to “political pressure,” linking to this Fox News post, ‘Republicans urge Obama to enforce Syria ‘red line,’ oppose deploying troops.’ Even when the Democratic president arms the rebels, it’s the Republicans’ fault. By perpetuating the liberal trope that Democrats are peaceful in principle but spineless in the face of gridlock, Froomkin lets them off the hook and plays into their own political finger-pointing. Democrats couldn’t have justified it better themselves.
Instead of investigating or ruminating on why Obama might send weapons to an opposition he didn’t think would win a conflict, if he knew that, “In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve,” Froomkin takes Obama’s words at face value. It’s possible that the U.S. wants regime change in Syria but doesn’t want a victory for these rebels. Moon of Alabama suggests an alternative theory altogether, one which seems plausible given the CIA study and the evidence thus far: “Or the plan was never to win. If the aim was and is the ‘destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria’ then arming all kinds of insurgents was and is a sane and successful policy.”
Froomkin then could have looked at what that destabilization would afford for the U.S. Under the pretext of bombing ISIS, American forces have commenced airstrikes in Syria with no resistance.
But by suggesting that the leader of the biggest empire on earth just bumbles into hugely profitable and hegemony-serving war almost accidentally, Froomkin joins fellow Intercept writers in adopting the ‘Inept Empire’ theory.
As Kevin Dooley writes,
the notion that the ruling elite are so stupid they don’t even know their interests, much less how to go about securing them, is ahistorical, power-serving nonsense. If we just look at recent history in the region, we can see that American power has intervened in and destroyed a number of countries (Iraq, Libya, Somalia to name a few), seen the results, and carried on doing it as though all had gone according to plan.
… Imperial aggression predictably disrupts all existing order, increases sectarianism, and often fractures the potential of independent development. If power knows these are predictable consequences of military intervention, and keeps on intervening, we can reasonably assume they are desired outcomes.
… Now, of course, empire can’t predict every consequence of its meddling, but I think we can be pretty sure they think military intervention is likely to lead to favorable conditions for penetrating markets and generating profit, or they wouldn’t be doing it. American policy is only “incomprehensible” and “counterproductive” if you assume their interests in Iraq and Syria are what they say they are.
(The rest is well worth reading, too.)
Finally, Froomkin somehow contrasts George W. Bush in better light. “George W. Bush’s decision,” he writes, “to go to war in Iraq sent vastly more people to their deaths than anything Obama did…But Bush at least thought the war in Iraq would do some good.” Some good? What good? In parentheses, Froomkin swallows imperialism whole with the claim that Bush wanted “a sudden flowering of pro-Western democracy in the Middle East.” But at least he didn’t “let loose the dogs of war simply because his political operatives told him it would poll well.”
For liberals, the United States is always simply going to war for the wrong reasons.