The need for military intervention in Syria is imperialist in objective, not humanitarian
Whoever accepts this challenge will have to prove otherwise.
The Dictionary of Human Geography defines imperialism as "an unequal human and territorial relationship, usually in the form of an empire, based on ideas of superiority and practices of dominance, and involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another.". Pro needs to show why he believes the US's actions are motivated by this definition of imperialism.
John Kerry has called the recent use of chemical weapons a "moral obscenity".  This is an understatement, as any morally normal human being would agree. He goes on to say, "What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,". John Kerry, as a representative of the US, is vocally making the moral case for retaliation against the Assad regime for its abuses of its subjects.
Obama campaigned as an anti-war president and has clearly shown reluctance to enter into conflict. He likely regrets using the phrase "red line" as it is now forcing his hand in doing things he wishes he didn't have to. A US lead strike against Syria provides an array of disincentives for the US from a diffident and divided U.N., the hostility of Syria's alleys (Iran, Russia, China), and the looming specter of yet another US lead invasion such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Syrians have made a mockery of the global prohibitions against the use of chemical weapons. Does Pro believe that military action in retaliation for the use of war crimes is simply an extension of imperial aims to control another people? If he does, how so? I ask.
The military action would be limited in scope to serve as a simple deterrent to future uses of chemical weapons. There would be no boots on the ground and the operation would not be open ended. With such a limited scope, how does Pro believe that it is possible to characterize the proposed actions as imperial.
To summarize my position, the US government has made a moral case that it may use military might to deter future atrocities. (Note that future atrocities may end up being the genocide of the Sunni majority by the Alawites by means of chemical weapons). The civil war in Syria has been raging for two years while the US has dragged its feet, offering the Syrian population little more than rhetoric, though doing virtually nothing to back up it up. And now that Assad is believed to have used chemical weapons to kill roughly 1500 people, the US - because of its rhetoric - is now in a position where it has to do something, or else lose all credibility. Which means it's possible that it might launch a missile or two into some Regime military targets. The US needs to retain a shred of credibility. It clearly wants to do nothing. And to characterize its half-hearted (and heartless) response to Syria as an effort to achieve "imperial goals" is simply a bit much.
Con cites Kerry"s moral condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, and I think we would all agree with such condemnation. In fact, I would extend such condemnation to all weapons. (Why only chemical weapons? Who the heck knows?) But the problem here is that intervention is being asked for solely on the fact that such chemical weapons were used, not for who used them and for what purposes. In reality, the US has no evidence that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime. In fact, it would be totally absurd for the Syrian regime (under Bashar al-Assad) to use such weapons when considering two reasons:
1)The Syrian regime was winning the civil war without the use of chemical weapons. It was successfully pushing back the rebels, removing them from their previous strongholds. Why all of the sudden would they use such weapons? Either they are completely nuts (which the massive propaganda machinery would like us to believe) or they are being framed.
2)The Syrian regime wouldn"t want to use such weapons knowing the US would retaliate against its use. Why in the world would they invite massive destruction upon themselves? Remember the first rounds of chemical weapons accusations came out in April or May (I think) and the warnings shortly after ("Red Line") were established.
Now going back to the first rounds of accusations, there were indeed uses of chemical weapons. But they were not proven to be that of Assad"s use. Rather, according to senior UN official Carle Del Ponte (based on a real assembling of evidence), they were used by the rebels themselves. And after that shocking revelation came out, the US propaganda system totally abandoned the Syria situation and stopped accusing the Syrian regime of chemical weapons use. Embarrassed? Yes. But it also reveals the total hypocrisy on the part of the US political establishment and their media-propaganda apparatus. Why not suggest intervening to stop the rebels from using such horrific weapons? Here was a clear case where the rebels gassed people nearby in order to create a pretext for intervention.
Now the US is going for a second round, assuming everyone has forgot about the first one. When the UN decided to investigate this second round of chemical weapons use, the Obama regime balked and tried to call it off, saying it was "too late". However, the UN has already sent a team to investigate (when they arrived at their location, they immediately faced gunshots coming from rebel strongholds!) these new locations. The UN still has a team investigating the locations from the first round as well. Assad himself has even demanded the UN to investigate two or three new locations where it is suggested that the rebels have also used chemical weapons there. Contrary to what people are led to believe, Assad seems far more willing to allow the UN to investigate these accusations than the US establishment. The US doesn"t seem comfortable with them taking place. Well, too bad!
Why would the rebels use chemical weapons? Well, there"s more reasons for why they would use it than one can come up with for why the Assad regime would do the same. For one thing they are badly losing the war in Syria, and they would like to tip the balance so that they are at least on an equal footing with the Assad regime. But the only way they can do that is with the help of the US"s awesome military power. However, any intervention by the US needs a pretext to justify such actions. Neither the US nor the rebels have such a pretext. So, what do they do? They go out and create one. It"s as simple as that. At least, that is what seems to be the conclusion based on the evidence coming out of the UN.
On the imperialism subject:
Con doesn"t seem to understand what imperialism. "Boots on the ground" isn"t imperialist in itself, although it is a means of achieving imperialist objectives. Waging a proxy war as it is in Syria isn"t imperialist in itself, but it is a means of achieving imperialist objectives. Do I have to repeat myself?
The United States came out of the Second World War as the sole superpower, which claimed the right to establish economic-political hegemony in every part of the world. That means control over the markets, resources and labor of foreign territories. It also means the right establish military bases where ever they see fit. Now the Middle East is probably considered the most important of such regions. State planners, dating back to the Roosevelt administration, have always saw that region as the "crown jewel of the world". "Whoever controls the Middle East controls the world". Why? Well, aside from oil, it is at a strategically important location. It exists at a center point, in which Europe, Africa, Russia and the rest of Asia lie all around it. Just pull out a map, and you"ll see what I mean.
Now coming out of the Second World War, we clearly see that the mantle of Empire is taken from the British by the United States. But the means by which such Empire operate have changed qualitatively. Whereas the British used colonialism, i.e. the direct control of foreign lands, the United States have adopted what academics call neo-colonialism. Neo-colonialism is where the Empire doesn"t directly control foreign lands, but advances its economic interests indirectly by establishing "client states", which in turn establishes open market economies through which the corporations of the mother country can penetrate and profit from. And the US has a good number of them: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel, etc. And let us not forget the countless numbers of interventions the US has performed since 1945 in order to advance its own imperial interest. That has been the historical record that no one can doubt.
But it is losing this hegemonic position. Its economic power has substantially been in serious decline. In the post-war period, it"s GDP represented half of the world"s GDP. Today, it is around a mere fifth. This has opened the way for other imperial rivalries to present a challenge, including Russia and China. What we are witnessing is a transition from a unipolar world to a multipolar one (which is definitely raising the possibility of a Third World War).
In order to secure its hegemonic position, it rightfully sees its long-term objective in securing control over Middle Eastern oil. But it has a problem: Iran, which US foreign policy advisers have always seen as a "nationalist" threat, vying for regional power. Well, Assad"s Syria is an important political ally of Iran. And if they can eventually topple the Assad regime, and replace him with a more faithful client, they can isolate Iran and have a better chance at securing their aims. That"s why the US has been and will continue to involve themselves in this conflict. Concern for helpless people being attacked by this or that weaponry is not the concern of the US state, who themselves have sponsored countless attacks (since 1945) on huge numbers of mostly poor people.
At this point, I spent a good deal writing. On such topics as this one, it is important to go beneath the surface appearance of things and grasp the reality of the situation as it is. What I just did above was sort of summarize the course of American imperialism. But it probably would have been more useful to discuss why imperialism exist at all, why do states (any state, not just the US state) pursues such a course. In fact, it might have been useful to understand what a state is, and what its purpose and functions are. CONTINUED IN COMMENT SECTION.
Despite Pro's (literally) overflowing verbosity, I must say his round 2, in addition to being clear and well-written, was a very interesting read and helped me understand his conception of imperialism and its historical underpinnings.
In R1, Pro didn't provide a definition "imperialism" so I, as the contender, provided a definition of the term in my R1. There is a common consensus that terms should be defined in R1, if not by the instigator, then by the contender. In R2, Pro has changed the meaning of "imperialism" from the one proposed in R1, and the legitimacy of that needs to be considered by the voters."Neo-colonialism"
In R2, Pro wants imperialism to mean neo-colonialism, i.e., where a states attempt to advance its economic (open market) interests through the establishment of "client states" (an undefined and vague term). So the US, here, is charged with establishing peaceful relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel to open up markets such that it is possible for American companies to play a competitive role in these economies.
So far so good, I guess. American companies are able to compete in these markets, selling goods to the populations at competitive prices, and these companies, where possible, are able to create jobs in these countries - providing job opportunities to populations that are emerging out of 3rd world poverty.
So despite the defamatory language used by Pro, it would seem that these relationships are hardly nefarious.
Pro brought up the point of the US's history of invading countries to advance it's economic and geopolitical interests. The definitive book on this shameful history of US invasions is Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change by Stephen Kinzer. In his exhaustive list of 14 invasions, only 3 occurred in the Middle East: Iran (the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953) and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.[a]
The overthrow of Mossadegh was a service rendered by the CIA to British oil interests and rightly qualifies as the type of violent imperialism that Pro argues is occurring in Syria now. The explicit aim of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasion, however, was to establish democratic rule in those regions. So, to the extent that the Middle East is concerned, a case for the violent neo-colonialism that Pro wants to argue is at the root of the current situation in US-Syrian relations can be made by appealing to one event that happened in the early 1950's. As shameful as this event is, it can't be used to characterize a nation's entire designs on the Middle East or Syria. So that leaves us with Iraq and Afghanistan. A simple question: How is US hegemony served by the propping up of sovereign democracies?Bad Faith
So far, all the assertions Pro has made have been without citations. Consider this passage from his last round:
However, the UN has already sent a team to investigate (when they arrived at their location, they immediately faced gunshots coming from rebel strongholds!) these new locations.
As far as I know, it hasn't been determined who fired the shots. Whenever this is reported in the media, no information is reported about the shooters. Consider this passage from Democracy Now's website from August 27:
The visit was initially delayed after the inspectors' convoy came under sniper fire. A U.N. spokesperson said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon still believes the inspectors can make a proper assessment, even though five days passed before they were allowed entry.
Democracy Now is a highly competent news outlet which, as a rule, denounces any violent acts by the US government, so it can't be considered one of the "official sources" Pro said I was "dependent" on. If the origin of the gunfire was known, they would be the first to report it, but they don't because no one knows - expect apparently Pro.
The reader should be skeptical of Pro's assertions, not only because they are uncited, but because many appear to be fabrications.Questions for Pro
In this section, I will challenge Pro on some of the assertion he made.
"In order to secure its hegemonic position, it rightfully sees its long-term objective in securing control over Middle Eastern oil."
How does this comport with the US's national push to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels? What about the fact that the Middle East is only one of many oil producing regions?
"Well, Assad's Syria is an important political ally of Iran. And if they can eventually topple the Assad regime, and replace him with a more faithful client, they can isolate Iran and have a better chance at securing their aims. That's why the US has been and will continue to involve themselves in this conflict."
What's wrong with pursuing a geopolitical strategy that is more conducive to open markets with a secular, pluralistic Syrian democracy? What's wrong with isolating a theocratic, anti-Western nuclear power (Iran) which is, above all other countries, the most likely to end humanity? Do these aims only serve the "Empire"?
"Concern for helpless people being attacked by this or that weaponry is not the concern of the US state, who themselves have sponsored countless attacks (since 1945) on huge numbers of mostly poor people."
The incentives of a state are complex and therefore cannot be summarized in a sweeping statement like this. There is a realpolitik aspect of any political action, but removing human compassion from a vast equation involving human beings cannot be done.Summary
In R1, Pro stated: I will try to argue that the main reason why the United States desires to intervene in Syria's civil war has everything to do with its long-term imperial goals rather than to defend helpless foreign people(s) being subjected to chemical weapons attack. And I will try to explain what those 'imperial goals' are.
What imperial goals are to be accomplished by blowing up a handful of Regime targets?
Why should we disregard the normal moral feelings that an entire nation will be expected to have upon learning 1500 people have been destroyed in a single chemical weapons attacks?
So far, Pro has written an interesting narrative regarding his opinions of the role of the US as the single superpower since WWII (for some reason leaving out Russia). However, he has done little in defending the initial contentions of the debate.
Somehow Con believes that establishing "client states" means "establishing peaceful relationships" with other countries. That is just far from the truth. A client state is one established by the Empire (via all sorts of means) which constructs domestic economic policies which are only to the benefit of the Empire"s economic interests. Whether they be dictatorships, monarchies or "formal" democracies, they all provide the same illusion, that the "country" at hand is "independent" of the Empire, and it is exercising its own sovereignty.
But we see time and time again, that even "formal" democracies are not safe. When the "right" candidate is not elected and the right policies are not pursued, they are subject to intervention and a potential overthrowing. Consider these two facts provided in the introduction to William Blum"s book (http://www.amazon.com...):
1.)Since 1945, the US has "endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected;"
2.)"Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries;"
One of the most horrific and most referenced examples was the overthrow of Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973, and his replacement with the brutal dictator Pinochet, armed with famed economic advisor Milton Friedman! Just to make sure it"s clear, the US has never had a consistent support for "democracy" and "free elections". It only does so when its interests are being served, otherwise it"s completely thrown out of the door. Rather, we see a consistent pattern of supporting authoritarian regimes. And the more these regimes are backed by Washington, the more authoritarian they become (http://www.chomsky.info...).
Con cites Kinzer"s book as the most "definitive" book on US invasions and "his exhaustive list of 14 invasions". That"s it? 14 (contrary to the 50 foreign governments intervened, with interventions totaling around the 100 mark)? Talk about turning a blind eye to history. Somebody like Noam Chomsky or William Blum, or even Michael Parenti is more authoritative on this topic. Why don"t you give them a look? Plus, I don"t think Kinzer would say that 14 is the only number of interventions the US committed itself to. I believe he took those 14 examples more of as a sample to cover and explore.
Con questions how can I establish that neo-colonialism is at root of the US-Syria conflict based on one event in the 1950s (i.e. Iran). Well, if that"s the only event you are aware of, then of course you can"t comprehend the nature of US imperialism any further. (http://williamblum.org...) Plus, why would this one event establish any basis for the neo-colonialism at root of the potential intervention of Syria? My whole purpose of bringing this debate all the way back to 1945 was to highlight that fundamental-qualitative shifts that took place within the global order. As British and other colonialisms receded, that left a politico-economic power gap that had to be re-filled if the core-peripheral relationship was to be maintained. The core-peripheral relationship was one in which core (also known as "First World") countries were dependent upon peripheral ("Third World") ones for surplus to exploit. And it is that usurpation of surplus that was behind the accelerating growth and advancement of the core, and the deprivation and misery of the masses in the peripheral. In fact, our whole current production system (global in nature by the way) is dependent upon this relationship, so any other tip of the balance would only cause further seismic instability. I wish I can explore that even further, but can"t do so here. (Check Immanuel Wallerstein)
So the US would step in assuming the role the British would leave behind, i.e. the sole administrator of the core-peripheral world-system. But it had to carry out this role with totally different means than the traditional direct colonization practiced by the British. That is where neo-colonialism comes in, which is more "informal" in nature, so that you can almost never see it. And it involves having client states establishing "laissez faire" economic policies, where its resources and labor are totally up for grabs, where tariffs are eliminated, where child labor laws and environmental regulations are nonexistent; all of which is to the benefit of foreign corporations (usually from the mother country). Con writes of them "selling goods to the population at competitive prices" and "providing job opportunities". You bet those people (whether they live in Africa, the Middle East, or wherever) would take those "job opportunities" at poverty wages, after having local resources being captured by foreign entities far more larger and powerful than any one of them, or being driven out of business by foreign entities flooding the local markets with cheap goods, undercutting the local producers.
These are the same policies that keeps the Third World where they are. As Michael Parenti would tell you, they are not underdeveloped (they are rich in all sorts of resources), rather they are overexploited. The First World, led by the US, has established a hierarchy within the global order that doesn't allow for an expansion of foreign capitalist economies. And it is often in the interest of Third World "nation"-states to chart an independent course to expand their own economies, and hence their own power. And that almost involves embracing economic policies (e.g. protectionism) that is incompatible with US interests. Whether or not the local population is naive to support their "own" state is not the point. (For one thing, I am against capitalism and all states) The point is that I or you is in no position to tell any state what economic course they should take. Rather, it is better to explain why they do what they do. Another point, I don"t why in the world I or you should support the actions of one state enforcing another state to embrace its own economic program. You might have to explain yourself there.
Con writes, "The incentives of a state are complex and therefore cannot be summarized in a sweeping statement like this. There is a realpolitik aspect of any political action, but removing human compassion from a vast equation involving human beings cannot be done."
Wow! Human compassion is a factor in state policy! This is just anti-scientific, ahistorical and moralizing. Does Con even know what a state is? Maybe we should have a debate on that. I see on his profile that he is a supporter of the Democratic Party. Does he ever take a step back and ask if electoral politics is the proper venue for politics in general? Does he ever ask what politics is? Because throughout his whole second round post, he repeats face value assumptions, like the lies of the Bush administration that the US sought to spread democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. How hard did it take to come up with that?
As for my lack of citations and fabrications, the fact is that the US still hasn't given evidence of who exactly used those weapons. "Confidence" and "belief" is not evidence. But the whole absurdity here is that the "Syrian" proletariat is going to be punished brutally for something their rulers may have did, because we all know that the victims of modern warfare are in most cases innocents who were never directly involved in any way with the inter-imperial rivalries between capitalist states. And my opponent in this debate is only serving the US ruling class by repeating its lies and propaganda.
So we can now see the utter vacuity of Pro's Anarcho-Marxist view of geopolitics as an explanatory framework for the actions of states.
When directly challenged on the US's relationship to oil; promotion of secular, pluralistic democracies; the justification on isolating the Iranian, anti-human theocracy; the human element in state actions; the economic usefulness of limited air strikes on Regime targets; and the role of morality in the actions of states, he can only mutter a few ad hominems.
We are asked to accept the notion of "client states" - such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel - as countries establish by the "Empire", and whose domestic economies are constructed by said "Empire" for the benefit of said "Empire". And any sovereignty these countries have is an illusion perpetrated by the "Empire". What a cartoonish view of such a complex regional history?
The history of US interventions - each with their own complex dynamics - is appealed to in order to explain the current complex situation in Syria. This is a sort of reverse gamblers fallacy where past situations are necessarily predictive of future ones.
In Pro's Willersteinian analysis of First World-Third World relations, we are asked to accept the economic assumptions of the Mercantilists which were that the world has a fixed amount of wealth, and wealth can't be produced, only stolen. This theory has be thoroughly discredited in modern economics, but one must accept it in order to accept Pro's/Willersteinian view that the Third World can't advance in wealth; thereby necessitating that the First World subjugate the Third World to its economic designs.
We are also expected to accept that states - those human institutions composed strictly of humans - can't act in ways representative of their human constituents.
Pro's view depends on fabrications when it is at its weakest. Pro asserted falsely that those who shot at the UN inspectors were Syrian rebels. I pointed out that it is unknown who shot at the inspectors, and Pro was not able to meet that challenge.
Pro's views rely on vague definitions. What was "imperialism" in the first round became "neo-colonialism" in the next. "Client-states" are vaguely defined as puppets of the "Empire" - "Empire" itself being another ill-defined term.
The First World is assumed to act as an single entity. We are asked to forget that half the First World is against military intervention in Syria , that only France and the US are nominally for military aggression, that currently the decision by the US to take action is being deliberated by the House and Senate (its very unclear what that final decision will be), and that France has shown significant reserve on military action in Syria. Where is the "Empire" in any of this?
Notice, too, that Pro's rounds have very little to do with Syria (in his last round he mentions Syria 3 times, and 2 of those times was simply to criticize something I said). He wants to prove the resolution not by affirming it, but by outlining a far-left, far-fetched world-view. Once you accept his fringe interpretation of reality, you are expected to naturally accept that the "Empire" is the major source of all the Third Worlds economic problems and, therefore, any military action taken in Syria, no matter how limited in scope, has an economic goal as its purpose and a Machiavellian purport behind it.
In closing, Pro's apprehension of geopolitics is strictly informed by an Anarcho-Marxist echo chamber. It's theories can't accept certain portions of reality. This is way Pro doesn't have any citations. At the end of each round, he posts links to dozens of books and websites that would paint this Marxist world-view for you, if only you would only read them, and accept all their contentions, before voting on the debate.
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