23 March 2011

Interventions in the "Arab Spring"

Everyone's watching Libya, and to an extent Yemen and Bahrain, but not many people are paying attention to Syria, where internal dissent is growing, and the Army will undoubtedly get involved.

The words have been repeated from Tunisia to Egypt, from Yemen to Bahrain. "The people want the regime to fall" - the mantra of revolution. And so, last week, after 15 kids wrote those words on a wall in the agricultural town of Dara'a in southern Syria, the local governor decided to come down hard. The young people - all under 17 - were thrown in jail. The punishment stunned the town and, suddenly, Syria - so confidently authoritarian - got its first strong taste of rebellion in what is called the Arab Spring.
Syria remains a closed and walled-off nation. But descriptions of the uprising in Dara'a were dramatic. The alleged details included dozens of young men pelting a poster - in broad daylight - of a smiling President Bashar al-Assad; a statue of his late father and predecessor Hafiz al-Assad, demolished; official buildings including the ruling Baath Party's headquarters and the governor's office burned down. "There is no fear, there is no fear, after today there is no fear!" hundreds of men chant, captured in shaky mobile phone footage allegedly taken on Monday. Over the weekend, provincial security forces opened fire on the marchers, killing several.
President Assad responded immediately. Sending a high-ranking delegation to deliver his condolences to the families of the dead. The governor was cashiered and the 15 kids released. But, according to at least two dissident websites, protesters have given the Syrian government until Friday morning to meet a list of demands relayed back to the President by his delegation. If not, they threaten that this Friday will become the "Friday of the Martyrs" not just in Dara'a and its province, Hauran, which shares a border with Jordan, but throughout the country.

George Will points out that the mission to Libya is inherently focused on regime change, no matter how it's being spun.

In Libya, mission creep began before the mission did. A no-fly zone would not accomplish what Barack Obama calls “a well-defined goal,” the “protection of civilians.” So the no-fly zone immediately became protection for aircraft conducting combat operations against Gaddafi’s ground forces.

America’s war aim is inseparable from — indeed, obviously is — destruction of that regime. So our purpose is to create a political vacuum, into which we hope — this is the “audacity of hope” as foreign policy — good things will spontaneously flow. But if Gaddafi cannot be beaten by the rebels, are we prepared to supply their military deficiencies? And if the decapitation of his regime produces what the removal of Saddam Hussein did — bloody chaos — what then are our responsibilities regarding the tribal vendettas we may have unleashed? How long are we prepared to police the partitioning of Libya?

Explaining his decision to wage war, Obama said Gaddafi has “lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead.” Such meretricious boilerplate seems designed to anesthetize thought. When did Gaddafi lose his people’s confidence? When did he have legitimacy? American doctrine — check the Declaration of Independence — is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. So there are always many illegitimate governments. When is it America’s duty to scrub away these blemishes on the planet? Is there a limiting principle of humanitarian interventionism? If so, would Obama take a stab at stating it?

And should the President be unilaterally approving military actions? It depends. Is he on the campaign trail or is he governing?

Obama made the assertion in a Dec. 20, 2007 interview with the Boston Globe when reporter Charlie Savage asked him under what circumstances the president would have the constitutional authority to bomb Iran without first seeking authorization from Congress.
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama responded.

“As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States,” Obama continued. “In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch.”

By: Brant


Pete Maidhof said...

Thanks for pointing out this. Very easy for people to not want to hear or read such.

Brant said...

just out of curiosity, which part? :)

Pete Maidhof said...

The last two especially, George Will, and the campaign comment. Both enlightening.