Syria: behind the diplomatic game, the impasse of a murderous system

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jk1921
Syria: behind the diplomatic game, the impasse of a murderous system
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Syria: behind the diplomatic game, the impasse of a murderous system. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
A couple of points: I have

A couple of points: I have alredy mentioned elsewhere the need to keep the "decline" of US power in perspective. There is a strain of analysis floating about that rather than suffering an utter humiliation, the Obama administration actually pulled off a master stroke, forcing the Assad regime and their Russian backers into admitting the existence of chemical weapons and submitting to inspections. We have said elsewhere that the US was not overly enthusiatic about making a direct military intervention in Syria, but given the violation of  a"red line," something had to be done. Perhaps the Russia proposal, made under the threat of an attack on their ally, was just the out the US was looking for? Of course, the fact that the US has to look for this out is itself a symptom of something, but given the messy situation on the ground in Syria, the reluctane to intervene and domestic disquiet about a strike, it appears the crisis of the last several weeks has ended about as well for the US as it could. Still, this does not preclude the further downward sprial of the situation in Syria in reference to US interests. However, one of the more remarkable features of this situation, and the Arab Spring in general, is the increasing difficulty for the US in locating its interests. Russia's interests here are clear, but just what are the US's other than preventing a clear victory for any of the other parties?

It is interesting to see the line about the resurgence of Russia (maybe Romeny was right after all?). There are some more general points to make about the question of "barbarism" and the tendency towards catastrophism in the article, but I will leave that for later.

Fred
a hymn to the bourgeoisie

The only "red line" in Syria is drawn with the blood of the victims of bourgeois savagery.  This red line is spreading round the globe as decomposition takes hold. 

 

Have the bourgeoisie no sense of pride in being human?  No generosity of spirit, no appreciation of the glory of belonging to the human species?   Have they always been so? Do they embody some awful flaw in human nature which means they  are permanently condemned to value profit and money, war and death, over all the nicer possibilities of life?  It begins to look like that.  Even in their early days, the glorious epoch when they spread Christianity and capitalism around the world -  looting and pillaging as powerful conquerors, and bestowing the benefits of civilization on everyone,  want it or not, along with plagues and pestilence - even in this golden age, large  scale massacrings of indigenous populations was frequently their trade mark, even outdoing some of the gruesome practices of the people they conquered as in Mexico.  For when it comes to torture and killings nobody in human history has ever rivalled  the bourgeoisie; they are the unchallenged experts in this vital field of repression.   

Of course they hide it all, or so they think!  The lies and excuses provided to explain or justify their inhuman and monstrous behaviors pile up like their weapons arsenals.  Its always the other sides fault. Or, they did it first!  Or really it was an accident; we'd no idea we were bombing a school we thought it was a barracks. Or who would have expected them (some opposing bourgeois gang that is) to build a hospital next door to a chemicals  factory?   Well  you might,  because you the bourgeoisie share all your disgusting and childish tricks in common. Lying and cheating,  and doing anything to "win", with complete disregrd for the horror you inflict on the rest of humanity, is yet another trait you  have in common.  

 

It seems like you've never grown up; never been able to escape the childish sentiments and egoism common to many infants brought up under capitalism's domineering ethos. In fact you even appear at times to rejoice  in it.  Surely your day must nearly be over?  

 

 

 

 

baboon
Masterstroke?

I think the "strain of analysis" mentioned above by jk saying that Obama has "pulled off a masterstroke" is completely wrong and Russian imperialism is the dominant force here. And what was always implied in the Russian diplomatic assault over Syria was that Iran would be brought more into the game and this is also something that the US cannot ignore. Unlike the last attempt of Iran to warm up relations with the US, the latter can't now dismiss the Iranian regime as part of the "axis of evil". As the article says more generally, as formidable as the military power of the US is, it is less and less calling the shots.

There is also the related question, mentioned in the article and previous articles, about the resurgence of Russian imperialism. The strengthening of Russian diplomacy, "war by another means", is an example of this. Also the Russian Defence Minister has just released some details about the upgrading and streamlining of its war plans. The regime is establishing a single defence structure, the National Defence Centre and the primacy of the military over essential and private businesses is reaffirmed at a higher level. It's interesting that the Russians should openly publish such plans at this time.

jk1921
In terms of there possibly

In terms of there possibly having been a Russian/Syrian ploy to use chemical weapons. How would that have worked exactly? The US doesn't really want to get involved, but in order to not give the impression they are totally ignoring the situation Obama draws a "redline" at the use of chemical weapons. So, in order to provoke an embarrasment to the US, Russia urges Syria to use chemical weapons risking a direct assault on its ally, then Russia gives the US an out in order not to go through with an attack it probably didn't want to make in the first place in order to tout its diplomatic weight? Seriously, I can't tell who is playing who here.

Hawkeye
Syria

Your article says that Syria is a very important strategic prize.  Your readers would be able to see the Marxist-Leninist view on that by visiting the website of Lalkar.  Some might already know that 'lalkar' is a word from languages in India meaning 'challenge'.

jk1921
" The Cold War is Over And

" The Cold War is Over And Japan Won"--Chalmers Johnson, 1995.

Coming back to the idea of a decline in US power:

Prognosticating about the future is difficult business, even for Marxists armed with historical materialism and not beholden to bourgeois ideological assumptions about the surperiority of democracy, etc. Its impossible to say with certainty how the future of interstate relations in the captialist world system will play out over the course of the next several centuries or even decades.

That said, the decline of American power has been prophesized many times over the previous decades. Even during the height of the Cold War, the natural superiority of Soviet style command economies was touted as a better fit for developing Third World Nations; the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s made the US look weak and vulnerable to many, the so-called rise of Japan in the 80s and early 90s seemed to predicate a new world order based in East Asia. However, each time the US has survived the challenge to remain the world's hegemonic power.

Is US global power weakening today? In some ways, yes. The break-up of the Soviet Union destroyed the bloc discipline which kept the other great powers beholden to US demands. The US simply cannot count on the UK, Germany, Japan and France to go along with its broad strategic plans anymore. It cant always get its way with the states that generally defered to it in the face of the Soviet threat. But along with this reality, the US is no longer threatend by another global super power. There is simply no other nation state that comes remotely close to rivalving the US's military power and its ability to project that power across the globe.

When we say the US is weakening--we have to state the yard stick we are using to make this claim. Weakening compared to what? The Cold War era? In the sense of bloc discipline, fine. In the sense of direct military threats to its global interests from a rival super power--the US currently stands alone on a platform far above any of its rivals.

Does the US have problems today? Of course. But lets not forget that even at the height of the bloc system the US never enjoyed anything like absolute power. The US lost China, couldn't prevent the Middle East from descending into interstate war on numerous occasions,  was fought to a stalemate in Korea, actually lost the Vietnam War and dealt with a proxy state of its superpower rival only 90 miles from its coast. Heck, even as late at the 1980s, Latin America (America's "backyard") was a den of Soviet intrigue with numerous guerilla movements fighting US interests and a Cuban/Soviet backed government in Nicaragua. On the surface, things didn't look good for the US. The Reagan adminsitration was reduced to doing a deal with the Iranians in order to fund the guerillas fighting the Sandanistas. Even within the Western Bloc, the United States did not always get its way. In 1953, the UK and France, along with Israel invaded Egypt without so much as consulting the United States. Later, De Gaulle pulled French troops out of NATOs military command. Later still, Thatcher resisted US overtures to do a deal with Argentina over the Falklands and the Israelis have never been completely reliable.

The point is that while it is true that the US is having certain trouble getting its way today in many circumstanes, US hegemony--even at the height of its power--has never been absolute. The idea of an absolute hegemon is always a myth. Still, compared to prior hegemonic powers, today the US stands out in regards to the distance between it and any rival power. Even the UK, at the height of the Pax Britannica, never enjoyed the level of tactical superiority the US holds today. In fact, the entire period of British hegemony was marked by nearly constant war in which the British did not always triumph-- losing their American colonies and facing constant inroads from French and later German imperialism.

I think that when we talk about the "decline" in American power, what we are really using as our measuring stick is the First Gulf War, in which the US was able to basically whip the entire world behind its war plans. But, I think in some ways the comparison in not appropriate. This was a very unique historical circumstance, occurring right after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, before the lesser powers could act to assert any independence. There is nowhere for the US to go from this moment in history, but down. So in general, the perspective of decline in US power is technically correct, even if not as meaningful as we tend to make it out to be at times.

I think the perpsective for the next sveral decades is, well, more of the same--an increasingly difficult international situation in which it is hard for the US to identify clear strategic goals, an advance in chaos, a tendency for each power to play it own card, etc. However, I think any idea of an absolute decline in US power in which its hegemonic status is put into question is spurious. There is simply no other power capable of forming a rival bloc. The US' military superiority is unquestioned and will likely remain so indefinetly. Sometimes the US will get its way, sometimes it won't, but I am left wondering what is so new about this situation? Even on the economic level, the US remains clearly on top: in percentage of global economic output, the dollar remains the global reserve currency, etc.

In trying to specify what's new about the current situation, I think we need to look more at the nature of decomposition than the decline of US hegemony. If we compare the US today to some mythical past of absolute power, of course we are going to conclude its in a precipitous decline--but I think this is never really the case for any hegemon, save for exceptional moments like the First Gulf War. Has the nature of the global system changed since the end of the blocs? Yes. Have the forces confronting US imperialism changed? Yes. But has the US's relative position of global hegemony really suffered such a precipitous decline as many like to believe? Color me skeptical. In some ways, I think the forces of decomposition actually seem to ensure that the US will remain hegemonic for the forseeable future.