Clifford A. Kiracofe
Washington’s regime change policy in Syria is about the world order. While human rights and democracy are featured in the propaganda mix, the real issue turns on the future of the international system and the role of international law.
The Obama administration, just as the Bush administration before it, mistakenly seeks through geopolitical measures to enforce a US-led unipolar world and to delay the emergence of a multipolar world.
In the Middle East, many Washington politicians and policymakers see Israel as the key US strategic ally. As the US pivots to the Asia-Pacific, they want Israel’s regional position strengthened and its enemies, such as Syria and Iran, weakened.
US general and former head of NATO command, Europe, Wesley Clark revealed in 2007 the game plan of the neoconservative network around then vice president Dick Cheney which played the key role in the Iran and Afghan wars of the Bush administration.
In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Clark said that in the wake of the 9/11 attack, he learned from Pentagon sources that the Middle East game plan for the future would be regime change in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
It should come as no surprise that Washington calls for regime change in Syria. Despite a difference in administrations, the underlying interventionist policy shows continuity. This is explained by the political influence of the pro-Israel lobby and neoconservative policy network, the Christian fundamentalists, and the human rights and democracy activists.
While their ultimate agendas may differ, these three influential pressure groups have a common foreign policy direction: military intervention to support regime change in the Middle East and elsewhere. These pressure groups called for the Iraq and Afghan wars and have since called for military intervention against Syria and Iran.
Regime change policy requires a parallel policy to undermine international law, international institutions such as the UN, and the traditional legal principle of state sovereignty.
Within traditional international law, the principle of the sovereignty of states, and the concomitant illegality of intervention into the internal affairs of states, was put forward as a foundation of the European states system established in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia. In following centuries, these principles received general international acceptance.
During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, however, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched a significant attack on international law and state sovereignty in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. Blair said that military intervention should be used to solve human rights issues.
Blair’s doctrine of military interventionism with state sovereignty as an anachronism was well received by human rights and democracy activists in the US.
Indeed, the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have all been in step with the Blair doctrine. In recent years, this policy concept has emerged as the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” doctrine.
In support of the R2P doctrine, the Obama administration recently made a significant bureaucratic change to promote interventionism as a tool of US foreign policy. The White House established an Atrocities Prevention Board which reports to the president.
Irish-born Samantha Power, a close Obama confidante and human rights activist, is director of the new board which will advise on when, where, and how to intervene in support of human rights.
Predictably, killings in Syria, including the Houla massacre, are being cited as the atrocity which should trigger military intervention. Some US officials, such as Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN and an ally of Power on human rights issues, call for countries to go outside the UN process and independently intervene with military force in Syria.
Such an extremist position reflects the increasing influence of US policy circles who wish to undermine international law and launch military interventions in support of their unipolar world project. Human rights and democracy promotion provide convenient cover for the main strategic objective of hegemony.
For many around the world, however, movement toward a progressive multipolar world under traditional principles of international law cannot come soon enough.