I was struggling this week to figure out what to write about, and then Assad dropped chemical weapons on Syrian civilians. And then Trump bombed a Syrian air-base in response. I found myself reacting the way I always do: skeptically, angrily and helplessly.
A few years of history, culture and politics classes have taught me that United States’ aggression and involvement in other regions often does a better job of further destabilizing situations than helping them. The current state of the Middle East is part of our legacy as a modern empire.
When the news of dozens of US tomahawk missiles being rained down on Syria made its way to me, the anti-war, anti-military ideologue within me was shocked and livid. In the past Trump has condemned further aggression in Syria, and now here we are.
The problem is, given our modern history there is no reason for me to be shocked. In the course of his presidency, Obama dropped thousands of bombs in places like Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. His predecessors were no different: Bush’s illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo and the list goes on and on. Granted, there are nuanced differences between what these past presidents did and what Trump is doing now, but the fact remains that since World War 2, the United States has been a great, rolling war machine.
And why shouldn’t it be? War makes money. The military-industrial complex is a trillion-dollar industry, and it there’s one thing I know, it’s that politicians will support whatever has the most money in it. If you read an article after the bombings this weekend about the world’s reactions to Trump’s decision and were surprised to see the only two countries who openly opposed it were Iran and Russia, don’t be. The West is addicted to war.
Since the 1960’s we’ve been in various proxy wars with the USSR/Russia because we want to flex our power, but we do it at the cost of brown people’s lives in other regions because a war between these two nations would mean catastrophe for us. A few Vietnamese, Syrian or Afghani lives are a small price to pay, right?
This is all is not to negate or dismiss the heinous acts of Bashar al-Assad. He is a terrible dictator with no regard for his people, but don’t be lost on the irony of the US justifying the bombings because Assad’s actions were violations of human rights. What is happening in Syria is complex and cannot be solved overnight, but I would especially say it cannot be solved with more weapons and violence.
To all my anti-war friends: our constant research and outspoken opposition are always necessary. Given the world’s entrenchment in violence, it can feel helpless to speak out, but that doesn’t make it less imperative. The anti-war movements focused around Vietnam and Iraq defined their generations, and now it’s our turn to find an alternative to endless state-violence and imperial occupations.