WAMC Sept. 5
Dr Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics.
“Asking the Wrong Questions on Syria”
As I speak, the American congress is struggling to ask the hard questions on Syria, asking whether the United States should, without legal authorization from the United Nations, without even the support of our usually stalwart ally the British, and ironically, along side Syria’s long time colonial master, the French, a nation with a long history of bombing Syria when ever it displeased Paris carry out a strike in retaliation for Syria’s apparent use of chemical weapons.
And that line against the use of chemical weapons is very real a line the world has tried to maintain for almost a century, since the horrors of the gas attacks during the First World War. Yes, the prohibition against chemical war fare is a line the world has drawn and the most immediate core questions are of course;
Do we have the ability to make a difference?
Are the American people behind this?
All good questions but frankly they are not those that matter in the long run, not the questions that really need to be asked. Not as important as when we are going to develop a broader policy to deal with this sort of thing. Because, yes the Arab spring was clearly caused by repressive governments but those governments had managed to stay in power rather well thank you for generations. No, what really matters is a world increasingly under stress.
Because the real problem is that Syria is part of something much larger and I don’t just mean the newest outburst of what began with so much hope, that dramatic movement still remembered somewhat bitterly now as the Arab Spring. That historic wave that overturned dictatorships from Tunisia to Libya and Egypt but something that reached far beyond the Middle East and began thousands of miles away, in an increasingly destabilized planetary climatic system that is upsetting global agriculture with crop killing droughts, and more prevalent insect pests from the US to China, from Australia to Russia, failed crops that set recent food prices soaring, and, depressingly provoked food riots not only in the Middle East but far beyond.
And yes, while the forces that brought down leaders from Ben Ali, to Gadhafi and Mubarak and now threaten Assad were multi-faceted, from North Africa to Syria rising food prices and crop failures, especially in Syria’s southern drought parched regions became the tinder that set the flames aloft.
Provoking what should be the real questions about Syria. Not simply the immediate issue of selectively prohibiting some chemical weapons while allowing others, napalm for example, to remain acceptable means of mass murder.
But what policy America, the United Nations and the entire international community will take on a world where crop failures, drought and carbon charged super storms are increasingly creating more and more national insecurity, and domestic tensions. All increasingly likely to provoke the sort of civil wars and desperate refuges we see flowing from Syria on a much more global and predicable scale.
Because, my friends, it is not just those fossil fuel profits currently flowing into Syria from oil rich Saudi Arabia and Iran that are fueling the struggle between their respective allies.
But fossil fuel carbon pollution, flowing into the atmosphere that is making such disparate struggles more likely in the future as more and more people compete for diminished resources.
And what policy America will have on those increasingly more common challenges to emerge is the real question our representatives and everyone else should be asking about Syria.