The Syrian standoff requires everyone to take a moment of pause and to reflect very deeply about what it is we are wanting to accomplish in the Middle East region.
Why does the dog wag its tail?
Because a dog is smarter than its tail.
If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.
The fascinating movie Wag the Dog, released in 1997 just weeks prior to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration, naturally prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality.
The basic plot of this movie is as follows: two weeks prior to re-election, the United States president lands in the middle of a sex scandal. In need of outside help, a presidential advisor enlists the expertise of a spin doctor, who decides a distraction is the best course of action. They then fabricate a war and, once under way, they have the media entirely focused on that war. A clear case of the tail wagging the dog.
The question on everyone’s mind: are the recent Syria bombings yet another case of us all being duped?
And before anyone screams, “Conspiracy theory!”, let me remind you of the time when the respected Secretary Colin Powell stood in front of the world at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), televised throughout the world, not only to inform us but to convince us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He argued that the allied forces or the “coalition of the willing” must act and act decisively to stop Saddam Hussein and his government of tyrants.
We all know the resultant outcome of that presentation at the UNGA. Saddam was summarily hanged. Until today, that country remains in turmoil. The lives of ordinary citizens have remained disrupted. Families, women and children continue to live in fear. Militia and military operations remain the order of the day. How can anyone say this was “mission accomplished”? Or that it was a successful execution by the allied forces? It has brought nothing but misery to the peoples of Iraq.
Let’s take a step back and see what really motivates the Western allies and their constant involvement in the affairs of the Middle East, besides the obvious matter of the vast oil reserves.
Geostrategically, the axes of the power balance in the region is that Iran, Syria, Palestine (Hamas) and Lebanon (Hezbollah) continue to present a counterweight to Israel and to Western hegemony generally in the region. With the Arab Spring in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power there briefly, this gave impetus to the Brotherhood in Syria to make a push against the Assad regime. A key supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood has always been Qatar, which explains the calls from other Arab and Muslim countries for Qatar’s isolation in the gulf. This however came to naught.
Unfortunately, in Syria the Brotherhood did not count on both Iranian and Russian support for the Assad regime which then complicated matters enormously for the rebels. In came the Western Allied forces to give support to the rebel forces against Assad. As such they could continue with their stated objectives to overthrow the Assad dictatorial regime through their proxy, the rebels.
This is not a new strategy. The Obama administration had already overthrown the Libyan regime under Muammar Gaddafi using rebels. This led to the public killing of that leader, broadcast globally for all to see.
By the way, this failed campaign in Libya by Obama led directly to modern-day slavery in that country today. Needless to say, the suffering and pain of the citizens in that country continues. One can assume that the Iranians, Russians, Syrians, and of late the Chinese, have learned from this prior US behaviour, and opted to stop the further destruction and mayhem in this region. How anyone can say this was mission accomplished and that it was a successful execution by the allied forces is beyond me. It has brought nothing but misery to the people of Libya too.
It is common cause by now that Assad and his allies have managed to push back the rebels. As far as they are concerned the war has been won. This is evident in all rebels alighting buses in various areas and moving out of the affected war-torn areas. This was also the case in the last held stronghold territory in recent days.
Once it became apparent that the US, UK and France were outmanoeuvred in this war, we then observed yet another “wag the dog” moment. The Syrian government under Assad had gassed his people in that territory, we were told. He had used chemical and biological weapons on his own people and that cannot be tolerated, they argued. We must act and act now to put a stop to his regime and this cowardice act by the Assad regime. Really?
Instead of allowing the outcomes and findings of the report from the responsible international authority, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Trump, May and Macron administrations wasted no time to strategically bomb facilities in Syria which led to the deaths of civilians in the affected areas.
As far as I’m concerned this is a classic case of, “we have lost the war as the Western Allied Forces, but we cannot afford for the Assad regime to have access to chemical and biological warfare material and facilities”.
Hence we must create a “perceived threat” and/or humanitarian disaster in order to neutralise such threat. Under such a guise, we can bomb such facilities to thy kingdom come. And in the process, also boost our respective military industrial complexes and arms industries by using sophisticated and very costly bombs in the bombing campaign.
Observing the Syrian bombing was painful, and begs the question as to why the international community allows such reckless “war crimes” and atrocities to take place? Needless to say, while all of these wars take place in the region, the Israeli government, on the other hand, has murdered about 34 Palestinians and injured thousands of innocent protesters on the Gaza border with their snipers. These are people who were exercising their fundamental right to protest against an unjust Israeli regime. Israel does not want to allow free movement of persons, has occupied land and built settlements illegally on land they do not own, and constantly harasses and victimises Palestinians in the region.
The situation cannot continue like this; the peoples of the region but also of the progressive world cannot continue to be fooled about fictitious threats. Yes, children are being killed in and around Jerusalem, Gaza, West Bank and Palestine, for simply throwing a stone or hurling insults. The situation, throughout the entire region, is tragic.
The fabricated war in our movie Wag the Dog delivered the desired outcome, which was that the president was re-elected for a second term. Mission accomplished indeed. But what is not mentioned or spoken about is the unethical and wrongdoing of lying to the citizens of these countries, no? Trump, May and Macron misled their citizens in order to kill and maim civilians in far-flung countries, in the region of the Middle East.
It seems our collective guilt of the Holocaust almost 70 years later makes the cruel and inhumane treatment of the peoples of the Middle East acceptable or at the very least gives us permission to turn a blind eye to these atrocities. Why are people not screaming in defence of the Syrian and Palestinian people? Is it because they are actually thought to be subhuman? Should we simply crush them like flies, exterminate them like insects, or dare I say like Jews in World War II? Let me be clear, I support the existence of the Holy State of Israel, but not its conquests.
The continued violence, oppression and subjugation of the peoples of the Middle East can only lead to an undesirable outcome in that part of the world in time to come. This will have dire consequences for the entire world.
The Syrian standoff, at this point, requires everyone to take a moment of pause and to reflect very deeply about what it is we are wanting to accomplish in the Middle East region. It would stand us all in good stead to take heed of the following quote, for I fear that this is one war that cannot be won by either side.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”. – Unknown
And I fear we have such individuals on both sides of the divide in that region. DM
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Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is an active fellow of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflections (MISTRA) and is a trustee for the Kgalema Mothlante Foundation
Adolf Hitler was the first European leader to ban human zoos.