Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Case for Returning to Traditional Liberal Foreign Policy.

There was a time when Liberals knew that, when it comes to foreign conflicts, it's a rare day that any side has clean hands. The very nature of these uprisings/insurgencies/civil wars usually ensures that it'll be one gang of murderous thugs battling the other gang of murderous thugs. One side may have an advantage in weapons, the other perhaps has the numbers - it doesn't really matter. We used to understand the folly of getting into bed with one side or the other. In many cases it's better not to try to help one side win but to work from a distance trying to get both sides to stop killing each other and the innocents.

The thing is, it's not even as though our efforts have been producing any meaningful and lasting results. Remember how we 'saved' Kosovo and created it as an independent state? Today, Kosovors are the EU's third largest migrant problem.

Now the spotlight is on Syria and, true to form, we're picking sides. One side is wearing white hats, the other is wearing black. We're for the anti-Assad rebels but we're against everyone else, including the Russians. Brown University's Stephen Kinzer writes that we're being wilfully blind to what's really going on.

For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.

This month, people in Aleppo have finally seen glimmers of hope. The Syrian army and its allies have been pushing militants out of the city. Last week they reclaimed the main power plant. Regular electricity may soon be restored. The militants’ hold on the city could be ending.

Militants, true to form, are wreaking havoc as they are pushed out of the city by Russian and Syrian Army forces. “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars,” one Aleppo resident wrote on social media. The Beirut-based analyst Marwa Osma asked, “The Syrian Arab Army, which is led by President Bashar Assad, is the only force on the ground, along with their allies, who are fighting ISIS — so you want to weaken the only system that is fighting ISIS?”

Americans are being told that the virtuous course in Syria is to fight the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian partners. We are supposed to hope that a righteous coalition of Americans, Turks, Saudis, Kurds, and the “moderate opposition” will win.

Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of “rebels” or “moderates,” not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a “rat line” for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.

Inevitably, this kind of disinformation has bled into the American presidential campaign. At the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations peace efforts in Syria were based on “an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva.” The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to challenge her.

Politicians may be forgiven for distorting their past actions. Governments may also be excused for promoting whatever narrative they believe best suits them. Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.

For the past 15 years Canada has outsourced its foreign and military policy to the Americans. Sure, Chretien kept us out of Iraq but, let's be honest, that was a no-brainer. Instead he got Canada committed to what became a futile, whack-a-mole war in Afghanistan.  Harper extended Canada's Afghan war and got us into the Libya fiasco plus the 'air war' against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. All those things seem to have done is to get us rubbing elbows with an ever greater gang of thugs and bandits.

It's time to disengage. Let's stop the charade of picking a good guy and a bad guy when there's really no good guy to pick. That goes for the Ukraine and Israel to boot.


the salamander said...

.. great article Mound.. we just don't see this kind of scathing accurate reflection via mainstream media..

Pamela Mac Neil said...

It's time Mound for Canada to develop its own foreign policy instead of following the US.With this new government, I don't think that is going to happen though.