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An antiwar perspective on Syria


At the n+1 website, Richard Beck has a detailed and impassioned piece on the Syrian tragedy from an antiwar perspective. Instead of supporting one side over another in the complex conflict, Beck argues for an international antimilitaristic effort to end the conflict as such. At this stage in the catastrophe, there can be no winners anymore. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The war’s complexity makes it difficult to see a viable path forward, but there is a sense in which it would be foolish to think of the conflict as one big Rubik’s cube in need of solving, because the complexity itself is part of the problem — the best thing to do with the Rubik’s cube would be to throw it against a wall. Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration. To the extent that it needed to take place at all, it should have been a civil war fought by two sides with limited military resources. Instead, it has turned into a series of extravagantly funded proxy wars across two or three separate axes, none of which has any organic connection to the questions of regime tolerance for political assembly and speech that prompted the conflict in the first place. While it would not be useful to ask nations to stop pursuing their national interests, the ease with which these countries have turned to military means in the pursuit of those interests is shameful. The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar…

The anti-imperialist analysis of global conflict, in which America is almost always seen as the primary bad actor, is useful and productive, but the Syrian war has exposed its limits. The political interests involved in the war are so complicated and numerous that even if the US government were persuaded to abandon the pursuit of any of its ambitions in the Middle East, the war would likely continue unabated. Only an international effort to set aside those interests, to remoralize the discussion around war and acknowledge that wars are atrocities by definition, will produce a solution. What’s needed is not an anti-imperialist analysis but an antimilitarist one. Fortunately, antimilitarism is an authentically internationalist stance, for the simple reason that war is equally bad for everyone on the receiving end of it.

Image: The American destroyer U.S.S. Porter launched a Tomahawk missile from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday. Via NY Times.