Thursday, 1 September 2016

'Critical liberal' media are only mitigating Obama's Syria crimes as 'regrettable mistakes'

As Barack Obama's term comes to a close, a faux 'critical-reflective' media has taken to pronouncing on his foreign policy 'successes' and 'mistakes'. While struggling to prove instances of the former, prominent within the latter is the repeated trope that Obama and the US have 'missed a vital opportunity to intervene in Syria'.

Across the political-media 'spectrum' - and in special reference to The Obama DoctrineJeffrey Goldberg's major interview-based piece on the president - a bombs-away commentariat have been lamenting 'Obama the ineffectual'. It includes familiar neo-con malcontents, now aligned with the Clintonites for an all-out assault on Assad. But there's also been much 'this happened on your watch, Mr Obama' recrimination from 'mainstream' cruise-missile 'humanitarians'. 

This more influential version of the lament finds 'moderate', Guardian-styled liberals perturbed by Obama's apparent 'passivity' when he really ought to be wielding 'legitimate Western violence' in the name of 'R2P', the all-moral-missile-guiding mantra 'responsibility to protect'. It's saying, in essence: 'a tad too much Mr Nice Guy, when you really just have to go smash The Bad Guy.' 

Thus, for the Observer, Obama has avoided the 'all-too-reasonable' case for liberal bombing:
Like the Chicago college professor he once was, Obama intellectualises his decision, making it seem a matter of principle and strategy. The problem with this mental exercise is that the “good reasons” that are its premise ignore the real story. Obama took fright over Syria because he realised there was little appetite in the US for an adventure akin to Iraq.
And the 'lamentable outcome' of this "real story" for the Observer:
the US national interest – and that of its allies – has been seriously affected by his Syrian equivocation...Obama’s shabby intellectual glasshouse is a bad place from which to throw stones.  
Likewise, for Ann Applebaum at the Washington Post, Obama's 'reticence' over Syria has been nothing less than a "disastrous nonintervention."  

One might be forgiven for thinking that many of Obama's 'natural liberal backers' have lost their own 'liberal compass'. But such 'criticism' helps illustrate the true, hawkish extent of our liberal war media, while misrepresenting, in their craving for intervention, Obama's own duplicitous 'case for restraint'.       

The proper framing of these tensions and truths are conveniently clouded because they sit within a broader liberal narrative which still understands Washington as the 'reluctant, but facilitating, outsider' - think, classically, Israel-Palestine - faithfully 'arbitrating for peace'. 

A constant media motif throughout the Syria conflict has been the 'tireless efforts' of John Kerry in seeking a 'diplomatic resolution'. And with this comes the embedded fiction that, even after its mass, murderous assault on an entire region, and relentless protection of Israel, the US has, instead, opted to play a 'relatively hands-off' game in Syria.    

In a highly-informed article, independent journalist Gareth Porter reveals the damning extent to which Obama's administration has, in fact, led, fed, fostered and encouraged a disastrous proxy war:
The Obama administration bears responsibility for this atrocity, because it could have prevented Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from launching their foolishly adventurous war in Syria.  None of them did so out of desperate need; it was a war of choice in every case.  And each of the three states is part of the US security system in the Middle East, providing military bases to NATO or to the United States and depending on US support for its security. But instead of insisting that those three Sunni allies reconsider their options, the Obama administration gave the green light at a conference in Riyadh at the end of March 2012 for proceeding with arming those who wanted to replace the regime, leaving the United States ostensibly free to be a peacemaker. As Hillary Clinton put it at the Riyadh conference: “Some will be able to do certain things, and others will do other things.”
Knowing, in particular, the deep sectarian history and volatile forces it would unleash. Porter asks:
Could senior Obama administration officials have been unaware that a war to overthrow Assad would inevitably become an enormous sectarian bloodbath? By August 2012 a US Defense Intelligence Agency report intelligence warned that “events are taking a clear sectarian direction,” and that the “the “Salafist[s], Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq]” were “the major forces driving the insurgency”. Furthermore, the Obama administration already knew by then that the external Sunni sponsors of the war against Assad were channeling their money and arms to the most sectarian groups in the field. But the administration did nothing to pressure its allies to stop it. In fact, it actually wove its own Syria policy around the externally fuelled war by overwhelmingly sectarian forces. And no one in the US political-media elite raised the issue.
In similar vein, a recent Media Lens alert article, again featuring some sharp analysis by Porter, exposes such media evasion and distortion, in this case taking apart the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, 'Obama's battle against so-called Islamic State'. The very title is self-revealing.

Listen to the BBC's leading editors Nick Robinson and John Simpson, alongside former Senior State Department official Karin Von Hippel, lament Obama's apparent 'failure' to 'intervene decisively'.

Hear Obama and the US presented by the BBC and their sole-selected guest as an effectively 'neutral and benign', yet still 'reticent', force trying to 'resolve' conflict and 'break' Islamic State, rather than as a principal creator and promoter of the regional carnage which has allowed IS to emerge and grow.

And consider, in the course of this 'moderate' discussion, just what a vital role our 'liberal-probing' media play in the encouragement and mitigation of Western warmongering.   

As Obama readies the handover baton, there's also been a virtual media blackout on Hillary Clinton's dark and deadly part in the calamity of Syria and the region. Think of this as a voluble silence of liberal encouragement, another nodding green light to even more heinous acts of 'R2P' aggression. 

Nor will they be able to say they didn't know what was still to come. Clinton aide, former Pentagon chief of staff Jeremy Bas, has duly confirmed that, if elected, she will intensify Obama's war on Assad.

It's an inauguration that doesn't augur well for war-afflicted Syrians and others suffering the calamitous effects of America's perpetual 'mistakes', and the liberal media's unmistakable misrepresentation of them.

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