Trump has launched his second attack on the Syrian government, this time by reportedly bombing chemical weapons facilities, including a chemical research facility. (We say “reportedly” because we don’t know for sure exactly what the US missiles attacked.)
We have to be clear what the aims as well as the constraints are: The aim is not to overthrow the Assad regime. US Secretary of “Defense” James Mattis made this clear. He said “Right now this is a one-time shot and I believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing it (chemical weapons attack) again.” So, Mattis, Trump and US imperialism in general have no objection to Assad’s murderous assault on the people of Syria. They have no objection to his imprisoning thousands, torturing opponents to death, bombing hospitals, schools, residential neighborhoods and public markets. Nor any objection to the ethnic cleansing that is being carried out. No, all of that is okay. Their problem is that chemical weapons are too much of a no-no. It’s too embarrassing. Murdering hundreds of thousands is okay, just don’t embarrass us, is the position of US imperialism.
US imperialism of course supported Assad’s neoliberal economic attacks on the Syrian workers and peasants, the attacks carried out in the run-up to the Arab Spring (2011). These were the same “reforms” that enormously enriched a little clique around Assad.
Constraint on US imperialism
The major constraint on US imperialism is the fact that it’s now got serious rivals for the first time, Russian and Chinese imperialism first and foremost. Even the US Defense Department recognized this in a report from July of last year. That same report also commented on the host of “non-government actors”, including the Islamic State.
The entire scenario is carefully choreographed. The US military was careful not to attack any facility where Russian soldiers might be killed. According to the Wall St. Journal, the US let the Russians know what air space they’d be using and, in return, the Russians didn’t shoot down any US rockets. In fact, it’s made sure not to kill Iranian or even Syrian troops. The Russian imperialists, meanwhile, loudly protested and, they claim, have shot down a number of US missiles. What they are not doing is attacking the US Navy ships from which the missiles were launched.
They’re all doing their best to look good to their respective bases while making sure that a wider conflict doesn’t ensue.
Meanwhile, the editors of the Wall St. Journal made clear the real concern of US capitalism/imperialism. It is to develop “a larger strategy to counter the attempt by the Assad-Russia-Iran axis to dominate the Middle East.” If the people of Syria have to be bombed to smithereens, or thousands tortured to death, that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters (to them) is figuring out how to expand US capitalism’s power and profits in the region, vs. some of their rival imperialist powers.
Oppose any role for US capitalism
Just as at home, US capitalism has no common interest with the masses of the Syrian people. They have two interests in Syria: One is to limit the influence of Russian and Iranian imperialism in Syria. The other is to combat the Islamic State and similar groups. (On the issue of combating Russian imperialism, because of his role as a money launderer for the Russian oligarchs/mafia, Trump has a different position from the mainstream of the US capitalist class. This is at the center of their crisis with him. But that is a different issue.)
Even before he took office, Trump made his view clear: The New York Times reported that Trump’s position was “that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians (meaning Assad) and their Russian backers…. ‘I’m not saying Assad is a good man, cause he’s not,’ he told the New York Times in an interview in March, ‘but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS.'”
Yes the Islamic State is a fascist force, but the reason that Trump and US capitalism in general opposes them is that they are disrupting the US.
How Syrians might see it
It is easily understandable that many people in Syria might support this particular bombing by Trump. Anything to ease the pressure, even just a little bit, might be the attitude. But Trump and US capitalism have absolutely no intention of doing anything to really help the masses of Syrian people. Not now and not in the future. The present attack is just aimed at making US capitalism look good so that they can continue their normal role of looking for a way to exploit the situation in order to increase the power and the profits of US capitalism. That is why socialists should not support it.
The “left” supporters of Assad
A footnote should be added about the “left” supporters of Assad. These are the ones who for years have been ignoring the war crimes of Assad, Putin and Rouhani. They screamed bloody murder about the last US bombing attack – the attack on the al Shayrat airfield. But just a few weeks earlier the US military had bombed a mosque in Syria, killing some 40 civilians. These same “lefts” were silent about that, just as in general they were silent about the US bombardment of Raqqa, which killed hundreds of civilians in the first few days. Since they are silent about the bombing of Syria by Assad and Putin, they have lost all right to oppose the US bombing of Syria. (For a better understanding of where they are coming from, see Putin, Assad and the Syrian Disaster.)
Categories: Middle East