The eeriest part about warfare is that there is often a moral fog that surrounds the entire landscape. Everyone thinks that they can get away with what they want to do because they see it as a necessity towards their final goal which is, no doubt, THE goal which trumps all other goals. This is precisely the point at which people can begin the justification of targeting civilians / collateral damage unto civilians. Let it be remembered, some of the bombing campaigns the US itself conducted against the Japanese and the Germans were defined and designed for their high body counts.
There is another sort of fog of war, though, that seems to be more and more present in our modern era and is climaxing right now: the fog so thick that people cannot even begin to conclude the parties responsible for attacks:
Damascus, Syria (CNN) — As Western powers try to verify claims that Syria deployed chemical weapons last week in a Damascus suburb, the government is pointing the finger at rebel forces.
They are pointing it back, accusing the government of gassing hundreds of people to death.
United Nations inspectors in Syria, attempting to gather information, say that Syria has not permitted them to visit the site of the attack.
In the meantime, the Pentagon has sent four warships armed with cruise missiles to the region.
In an exclusive interview with CNN that aired Friday, Obama said that preliminary signs indicated a “big event of grave concern.”
“It is very troublesome,” he said. “That starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.”
We’ve come to a point in modern warfare where everything has changed. Of course, we should not be naive and say that traditional means of warfare provided great insulation for the civilian populace or some other lie but the fact of the matter is that we’ve now reached the pinnacle of it.
We cannot conclude off hand who is responsible for these attacks — some would be quick to condemn Assad as he is a dictator, and others may be faster still to condemn the Syrian militants who are majority Sunni extremists. I really cannot say for sure who or what the cause of this disaster is…
What we do know is that Jobar is a suburban area of Damascus hitherto held by rebels. This might indicate a government inclination to use such weapons to cause great horror to the rebels living among the civilians. However, Syrian government spokesmen insist that after initial rocket bombing by themselves (perhaps quite tactical though only Heaven knows) were followed by rebels desperately throwing up such gas in order to confuse the situation further — a last ditch effort of sorts to pique the interest of the international community in what may be a losing cause for the Syrian rebels.
We also know that it has been asserted before that Hussein’s chemical weapons were transferred into Syria. It seems that the ghost of Saddam Hussein and memories of Iraq can be found wherever we look in the Mashriq. Our feelings become even more confused and heated when we think of the very history of chemical weapons in the Middle East as a whole and, dare I say, the world.
At this venture no one can say who is really responsible — the Syrian government is disinterested in bringing in the UN inspectors for any number of reasons ranging from the fact that the UN peacekeepers / inspectors / observers (a rose by any other name…) has even been used as human shields by rebels before, or, potentially, the fact that the UN could uncover some damning evidence. I am unsure whether or not this can even be said to be an admission of guilt but rather demonstrates the entire skepticism naturally held by all when it comes to the UN, considering even that the UN specifically has condemned Assad.
Merely, we ought to take this opportunity to reflect upon the horrors of warfare and how the situation spirals out of control easily. Perhaps we can also conclude that due to uncertainty behind what the rebels hold in store for the Syrians we must also consciously oppose support being rendered unto them, which would only serve to exacerbate the situation through creating a long term civil war.
Alex Massie cleverly points out that the motivation of Obama could merely be a realpolitik urge to mess with the Iranians and Hezbollah, and further destabilize the Mashriq region in efforts to maintain US primacy in the area. By weakening Iran and Hezbollah and undercutting traditional Ba’athist power bases (the Ba’athists being the only successful secularists outside of lonely monarchs & the beaten, bloodied yet unconquerable Kurds) simply to prolong a vacuum of organized political power that is in the US best interests.
Naturally, it is not about human rights and happiness all the time — sometimes it is merely about keeping one’s opponents chasing their tails and/or poisoning & shooting one another.
Overall, I feel that this highlights the chaos that is warfare…
Lastly, please keep in mind: this is a civil war with geopolitical ramifications. It is a struggle between several competing philosophies and several competing ethnic & tribal groups. No warfare is ‘business as usual’ no matter how much the anti-religious want to portray the Middle East as festering in the rot of religion, nor is it as the Christian right would say a symptom of a ‘violent religion’ that Islam is…
Rather, this is just Third World countries doing what Third World countries do best: being an often miserable & cruel place to live. This is also Third World people doing what Third World people do best: heroically taking a stand and gunning it out against all odds, fighting on to the lonesome end. They might not always have the best (or right) ideas, but lest us not forget they do not have the gifts of a developed educational & cultural infrastructure that is the hallmark of good living.
Regardless, our thoughts and prayers are with the Syrians and I hope only for a quick conclusion. Clearly, little else can be hoped for in this messy situation.