Why Mattis’ exit is a defining moment in US foreign policy

24 Dec 2018
We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Donald Trump, Jan 2017

Within the week, President Trump’s sudden announcement of “total” troop withdrawal from Syria has ripped apart the American political system and exposed its fault lines. Trump’s decision is intrinsically a sound one. He didn’t start the Syrian conflict and he has been on record repeatedly that the US had no business to intervene in it militarily. But his writ as president and commander-in-chief didn’t run large. Astoundingly enough, we know now that the Pentagon defied the president who is also the commander-in-chief.

We also know that Trump’s defence secretary James Mattis set the scale and scope of the US intervention in Syria. From what was meant to be a limited intervention, Mattis turned it into an open-ended military occupation of Syria. This was despite the fact that the US carries no UN mandate to send forces to Syria. The repeated protests by Damascus, including at the UN, were ignored.

Indeed, the military mission that was originally geared to fight the ISIS morphed into a geopolitical one to counter Iran (and Russia’s) presence in Syria. Above all, the US military virtually occupied one-third of Syrian territory and declared it an exclusive region that even Syrian government forces were barred from entering and imposed a “no-fly zone” there. All this constituted a gross violation of international law and UN Charter.

While resigning in protest, Mattis took care to turn it into a first-rate political scandal. This has put Trump’s back up. If Mattis was hoping to keep his job till end-February with an intention to continue to undermine the president’s foreign policies, an unforgiving Trump has other plans. Trump has announced the appointment of an acting defence secretary w.e.f. Jan 1, which defangs Mattis overnight. Trump thereby ensures that his decision on troop withdrawal in Syria will be implemented on the ground.

The really stunning part is that the bulk of America’s political class, think tanks and the media have rallied to support Mattis in an astounding display of defiance and spite toward their elected president. Suffice to say, there has been an insurrection against Trump’s foreign policy agenda and Mattis was a key figure in that enterprise. Quintessentially, the established American political system – what Trump calls the “Swamp” – refuses to make way for the elected president, his mandate from the people for his political platform notwithstanding. Isn’t it a sham that the US claims to have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”?

Quite obviously, Syria is only the tip of the iceberg. Looking back, Mattis had a virtual free run through the past two-year period, to undermine Trump’s foreign policy agenda across the board. Mattis had the great advantage of serving at NATO Headquarters as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. His president, on the other hand, was a novice in alliance politics. Mattis knew precisely how consensus opinion is forged in Brussels around decisions taken in Washington, how those decisions get formally adopted by alliance partners and how Washington’s projects invariably get implemented. Thus, Trump’s role got incrementally reduced to ranting and raving about the NATO budget. Trump talks no longer about NATO being “obsolete”.

NATO.png

Simply put, Mattis has brilliantly revived the NATO. He did this knowing fully well that a transatlantic alliance raring to go cannot do without an “enemy”. And Mattis also knew that that “enemy” has to be Russia. Thus, the reboot of NATO and the ratcheting up of tensions with Russia became mutually reinforcing endeavors. The result is plain to see: NATO has come closer to Russia’s borders than at anytime before and is creating threatening military infrastructure there. Moscow is in a quandary because it is well aware that the NATO project is a de facto Pentagon project and Trump himself probably had little to do with it.

Moscow keeps hoping that a Russian-American summit would help matters, but then, Trump’s plans for meeting with Vladimir Putin runs into strong headwinds whenever the idea surfaces. The “Russia collusion” inquiry keeps Trump off balance (although Robert Mueller has so far failed to produce a shred of evidence that Moscow promoted Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election.) Put differently, for the “Swamp” the Robert Mueller inquiry becomes critically important precisely for the reason that Trump is prevented from making any concerted attempt to improve US-Russia relations.

Syria and Afghanistan are only illustrative examples of how the Pentagon has a corporate interest in fighting open-ended wars. In both cases, a military victory is no longer regarded as feasible, and it is the hidden geopolitical agenda that matters to the Pentagon. Equally, cascading tensions with Russia or the open-ended wars translate as bigger budgetary allocation for the Pentagon, which of course largely goes to fund the military-industrial complex. One can take a safe bet that it is a matter of time before Mattis himself gets re-employed in the corporate board of some big arms manufacturing enterprise. The passion with which he has been advocating Saudi Arabia’s cause in the downstream of the Jamal Khashoggi affair speaks volumes about the unholy nexus at work involving the sheikhs, the Pentagon and the arms vendors – and the US lawmakers.

This sort of nexus has spawned a powerful coalition of interest groups who are viscerally opposed to a “demilitarization” of the US foreign policies, which is at the core of Trump’s agenda. Their favorite candidate in the 2016 election was Hillary Clinton. Their focus today is on debilitating the Trump presidency in any whichever way they can and to work toward ensuring that Trump doesn’t win a second term.

In this holding operation, Mattis played a stellar role by systematically undermining the Trump agenda. Mattis is a skilled operator in the military bureaucracy and his departure leaves a void for the Swamp. But his exit is not going to be the end of the vicious struggle going on in American politics. The good part is that Trump seems to understand that it will be a downhill slope ahead of him unless he took a last-ditch stance and dug in now to assert his constitutional prerogative as the president to push his foreign policy agenda. The point is, that agenda also happens to be linked to Trump’s campaign platform for the 2020 election.

https://www.newsclick.in/why-mattis-exit-defining-moment-us-foreign-policy

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America Has Been at War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 Years – Since 1776

By Washington’s Blog

Global Research, October 21, 2018
Washington’s Blog 20 February 2015

 

First published by Washington’s Blog and Global Research in January 2017

The U.S. Has Only Been At Peace For 21 Years Total Since Its Birth

In 2011, Danios wrote:

 Below, I have reproduced a year-by-year timeline of America’s wars, which reveals something quite interesting: since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.  In other words, there were only 21 calendar years in which the U.S. did not wage any wars.

To put this in perspective:

* Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.

* No U.S. president truly qualifies as a peacetime president.  Instead, all U.S. presidents can technically be considered “war presidents.”

* The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.

* The only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.

*  *  *

Year-by-year Timeline of America’s Major Wars (1776-2011)

1776 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamagua Wars, Second Cherokee War, Pennamite-Yankee War

1777 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Second Cherokee War, Pennamite-Yankee War

1778 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1779 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1780 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1781 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1782 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1783 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1784 – Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War, Oconee War

1785 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1786 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1787 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1788 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1789 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1790 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1791 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1792 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1793 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1794 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1795 – Northwest Indian War

1796 – No major war

1797 – No major war

1798 – Quasi-War

1799 – Quasi-War

1800 – Quasi-War

1801 – First Barbary War

1802 – First Barbary War

1803 – First Barbary War

1804 – First Barbary War

1805 – First Barbary War

1806 – Sabine Expedition

1807 – No major war

1808 – No major war

1809 – No major war

1810 – U.S. occupies Spanish-held West Florida

1811 – Tecumseh’s War

1812 – War of 1812, Tecumseh’s War, Seminole Wars, U.S. occupies Spanish-held Amelia Island and other parts of East Florida

1813 – War of 1812, Tecumseh’s War, Peoria War, Creek War, U.S. expands its territory in West Florida

1814 – War of 1812, Creek War, U.S. expands its territory in Florida, Anti-piracy war

1815 – War of 1812, Second Barbary War, Anti-piracy war

1816 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1817 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1818 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1819 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1820 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1821 – Anti-piracy war (see note above)

1822 – Anti-piracy war (see note above)

1823 – Anti-piracy war, Arikara War

1824 – Anti-piracy war

1825 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1826 – No major war

1827 – Winnebago War

1828 – No major war

1829 – No major war

1830 – No major war 

1831 – Sac and Fox Indian War

1832 – Black Hawk War

1833 – Cherokee Indian War

1834 – Cherokee Indian War, Pawnee Indian Territory Campaign

1835 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War

1836 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War, Missouri-Iowa Border War

1837 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War, Osage Indian War, Buckshot War

1838 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Buckshot War, Heatherly Indian War

1839 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars

1840 – Seminole Wars, U.S. naval forces invade Fiji Islands

1841 – Seminole Wars, U.S. naval forces invade McKean Island, Gilbert Islands, and Samoa

1842 – Seminole Wars

1843 – U.S. forces clash with Chinese, U.S. troops invade African coast

1844 – Texas-Indian Wars

1845 – Texas-Indian Wars

1846 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars

1847 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars

1848 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War

1849 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians

1850 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, California Indian Wars, Pitt River Expedition

1851 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, California Indian Wars

1852 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, California Indian Wars

1853 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, Walker War, California Indian Wars

1854 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians

1855 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Yakima War, Winnas Expedition, Klickitat War, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, U.S. forces invade Fiji Islands and Uruguay

1856 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Tintic War

1857 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Utah War, Conflict in Nicaragua

1858 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Mohave War, California Indian Wars, Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-Paloos War, Utah War, U.S. forces invade Fiji Islands and Uruguay

1859 Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Pecos Expedition, Antelope Hills Expedition, Bear River Expedition, John Brown’s raid, U.S. forces launch attack against Paraguay, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1860 – Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Paiute War, Kiowa-Comanche War

1861 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign

1862 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Dakota War of 1862,

1863 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Colorado War, Goshute War

1864 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Colorado War, Snake War

1865 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Colorado War, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War

1866 – Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Franklin County War, U.S. invades Mexico, Conflict with China

1867 – Texas-Indian Wars, Long Walk of the Navajo, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War, U.S. troops occupy Nicaragua and attack Taiwan

1868 – Texas-Indian Wars, Long Walk of the Navajo, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Comanche Wars, Battle of Washita River, Franklin County War

1869 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War

1870 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War

1871 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War, Kingsley Cave Massacre, U.S. forces invade Korea

1872 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Modoc War, Franklin County War

1873 – Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Modoc War, Apache Wars, Cypress Hills Massacre, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1874 – Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Red River War, Mason County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1875 – Conflict in Mexico, Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Eastern Nevada, Mason County War, Colfax County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1876 – Texas-Indian Wars, Black Hills War, Mason County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1877 – Texas-Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Black Hills War, Nez Perce War, Mason County War, Lincoln County War, San Elizario Salt War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1878 – Paiute Indian conflict, Bannock War, Cheyenne War, Lincoln County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1879 – Cheyenne War, Sheepeater Indian War, White River War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1880 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1881 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1882 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1883 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1884 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1885 – Apache Wars, Eastern Nevada Expedition, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1886 – Apache Wars, Pleasant Valley War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1887 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1888 – U.S. show of force against Haiti, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1889 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1890 – Sioux Indian War, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Ghost Dance War, Wounded Knee, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1891 – Sioux Indian War, Ghost Dance War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1892 – Johnson County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1893 – U.S. forces invade Mexico and Hawaii

1894 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1895 – U.S. forces invade Mexico, Bannock Indian Disturbances

1896 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1897 – No major war

1898 – Spanish-American War, Battle of Leech Lake, Chippewa Indian Disturbances

1899 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1900 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1901 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1902 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1903 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1904 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1905 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1906 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1907 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1908 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1909 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1910 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1911 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1912 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1913 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars, New Mexico Navajo War

1914 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1915 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico, Colorado Paiute War

1916 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1917 – Banana Wars, World War I, U.S. invades Mexico

1918 – Banana Wars, World War I, U.S invades Mexico

1919 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1920 – Banana Wars

1921 – Banana Wars

1922 – Banana Wars

1923 – Banana Wars, Posey War

1924 – Banana Wars

1925 – Banana Wars

1926 – Banana Wars

1927 – Banana Wars

1928 – Banana Wars

1930 – Banana Wars

1931 – Banana Wars

1932 – Banana Wars

1933 – Banana Wars

1934 – Banana Wars

1935 – No major war

1936 – No major war

1937 – No major war

1938 – No major war

1939 – No major war

1940 – No major war

1941 – World War II

1942 – World War II

1943 – Wold War II

1944 – World War II

1945 – World War II

1946 – Cold War (U.S. occupies the Philippines and South Korea)

1947 – Cold War (U.S. occupies South Korea, U.S. forces land in Greece to fight Communists)

1948 – Cold War (U.S. forces aid Chinese Nationalist Party against Communists)

1949 – Cold War (U.S. forces aid Chinese Nationalist Party against Communists)

1950 – Korean War, Jayuga Uprising

1951 – Korean War

1952 – Korean War

1953 – Korean War

1954 – Covert War in Guatemala

1955 – Vietnam War

1956 – Vietnam War

1957 – Vietnam War

1958 – Vietnam War

1959 – Vietnam War, Conflict in Haiti

1960 – Vietam War

1961 – Vietnam War

1962 – Vietnam War, Cold War (Cuban Missile Crisis; U.S. marines fight Communists in Thailand)

1963 – Vietnam War

1964 – Vietnam War

1965 – Vietnam War, U.S. occupation of Dominican Republic

1966 – Vietnam War, U.S. occupation of Dominican Republic

1967 – Vietnam War

1968 – Vietnam War

1969 – Vietnam War

1970 – Vietnam War

1971 – Vietnam War

1972 – Vietnam War

1973 – Vietnam War, U.S. aids Israel in Yom Kippur War

1974 – Vietnam War

1975 – Vietnam War

1976 – No major war

1977 – No major war

1978 – No major war

1979 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan)

1980 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan)

1981 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), First Gulf of Sidra Incident

1982 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Lebanon

1983 – Cold War (Invasion of Grenada, CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Lebanon

1984 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Persian Gulf

1985 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua)

1986 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua)

1987 – Conflict in Persian Gulf

1988 – Conflict in Persian Gulf, U.S. occupation of Panama

1989 – Second Gulf of Sidra Incident, U.S. occupation of Panama, Conflict in Philippines

1990 – First Gulf War, U.S. occupation of Panama

1991 – First Gulf War

1992 – Conflict in Iraq

1993 – Conflict in Iraq

1994 – Conflict in Iraq, U.S. invades Haiti

1995 – Conflict in Iraq, U.S. invades Haiti, NATO bombing of Bosnia and Herzegovina

1996 – Conflict in Iraq

1997 – No major war

1998 – Bombing of Iraq, Missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan

1999 – Kosovo War

2000 – No major war

2001 – War on Terror in Afghanistan

2002 – War on Terror in Afghanistan and Yemen

2003 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, and Iraq

2004 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2005 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2006 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2007 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen

2008 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2009 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2010 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2011 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen; Conflict in Libya (Libyan Civil War)

In most of these wars, the U.S. was on the offense. Danios admits that some of the wars were defensive.   However, Danios also leaves out covert CIA operations and other acts which could be considered war.

Let’s update what’s happened since 2011:

2012 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen

2013 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen

2014 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen; Civil War in Ukraine

2015 – War on Terror in Somalia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen; Civil War in Ukraine

So we can add 4 more years of war. That means that for 222 out of 239 years – or 93% of the time – America has been at war. (We can quibble with the exact numbers, but the high percentage of time that America has been at war is clear and unmistakable.)

Indeed, most of the military operations launched since World War II have been launched by the U.S.

And American military spending dwarfs the rest of the world put together.

No wonder polls show that the world believes America is the number 1 threat to peace.

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Trump’s Syrian Gambit Again Exposes Australian Foreign Policy Bankruptcy

29.12.2018 Author: James ONeill

The decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria clearly caught Australian political, military and intelligence leaders by surprise. Despite claims of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australia and the US were “joined at the hip” the link is clearly metaphorical and does not extend to actual consultation.

Although there are officially no Australian troops in Syria and therefore none to be “withdrawn”, the Australian Air Force continues to provide air support via refueling aircraft, surveillance aircraft, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald (24 December 2018) fighter aircraft. These are for “coalition” air operations.

The exact nature of these operations is clouded in secrecy, ostensibly on operational grounds but in reality to conceal Australian participation in US operations. Those operations include tactical support for anti-Assad government forces, or more plainly, terrorist groups. The true nature of US operations in Syria is never discussed in the Australian mainstream media.

Those operations also include perpetrating war crimes, as in the air assault on Raqqa in 2017, which killed thousands of civilians, including women and children. Being ‘joined at the hip’ carries with it its own consequences, including accountability for the war crimes carried out by Australia’s allies.

The Australian political response to Trumps announcement has been muted. There have been the usual banal clichés about “continuing the mission,” “support for our allies,” and “continuing our training mission.”

Quite how any of these alleged roles is applicable in the Syrian context remains obscure. Just as obscure is the legal justification for Australia playing any role in Syria at all. The Australian government has at best obfuscated that legal justification. When the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced in August 2015 that no decision to join the Syrian war would be made until they had legal advice, they omitted to tell the Australian public that they had received that legal advice more than a year earlier.

That advice, or even an executive summary indicating the legal basis for intervening in Syria, has never been released. If in fact the advice had said that Australia’s intervention would be in accordance with international law, then one might have thought the government would release the advice, even if redacted, to support its case.

Instead, Australians were told, via the Foreign Minister, that the intervention was pursuant to the collective self-defence provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and the nation being “defended” in this case was Iraq.

Article 51 manifestly does not apply, and neither was that support sought by Iraq. Given the blatant illegality and lies used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Australia enthusiastically joined, and the subsequent physical and political destruction of that country, Iraqis are likely the last people to be seeking Australian “help” about anything.

A better measure of the Iraq government’s attitude to be presence of Australian soldiers on its soil is found in the Iraqi government’s refusal to sign a Status of Forces agreement with Australia. As a consequence, all Australian military personnel in Iraq are there with diplomatic passports. It must be unique in modern military history that occupying forces, allegedly “training” the local troops has needed such protection from their erstwhile pupils.

Again, these basic facts are not discussed in the Australian mainstream media because to do so would open up too many awkward questions such as why occupying troops are still in the country they illegally invaded nearly 16 years after the event.

Trump’s announcement was greeted with dismay by the various sectors of the US military industrial complex for whom perpetual war is a major raison d’etre. Although Trump’s announcement is to be welcomed, it was accompanied by the absurd claim that the United States had defeated ISIS and therefore there was the longer any reason to stay.

It is presumably politically impossible for Trump, in the present hysterical American political climate, to acknowledge that it was Syria, aided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, who played by far the greater role in defeating ISIS. The reality is that the American presence has been a hindrance rather than help in defeating ISIS.

That hindrance was not by chance. The American goal, and that of their Saudi and Israeli allies, was the overthrow of the Assad government. That the Syrian government and its allies have thwarted this goal is a greater reason for Trump’s announced withdrawal than his claimed victory over ISIS.

The negative reaction to Trump’s announcement by the US political and military class starkly reveals the extent to which American foreign policy in the Middle East has been dictated by Israeli ambitions to (a) break up Syria and Iraq into smaller, more pliable statelets; and (b) hold onto parts already stolen, as in Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights; and (c) give Israel unfettered access to the oil and gas riches in the Golan and off the Palestine coast.

One only has to look at the advisory board of Genie Energy, a major oil and gas player in the region on Israel’s behalf, to understand both the motives and the media support. That advisory board includes such people as former US vice-president Dick Cheney and media mogul Rupert Murdoch among other luminaries of the American deep state.

These considerations neatly dovetail with US policy to prevent the formation of a Shi’ite crescent stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean, via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. That development is further complicated by Iran’s increasingly central role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the North South Transportation Corridor, and developing friendly ties with NATO member Turkey. The neocon ambition for ‘regime change’ in Iran looks less and less likely to succeed.

It is little wonder therefore that Australia’s leaders have been left floundering by Trump’s announcement. They have known from the outset that the whole Iraq venture was illegal and based on lies, as well as having other motives than those publically expressed.

It is almost certain that the legal advice the government obtained in 2014 about joining the Syrian war was to the effect that, absent a UN Security Council resolution or an invitation from the Syrian government, there was no basis in international law for such a venture.

They went ahead anyway. The reasons for doing so are equally opaque, not least because the government has never permitted a debate in parliament on its role in the Syrian war, and no government minister has been forthcoming beyond the usual vague generalisations about ‘combating terrorism.’ It is not difficult to infer the likely real reasons. One of those reasons is the delusional belief that the Americans will on some future occasion provide a defence umbrella under the invariably misquoted and misrepresented ANZUS Treaty.

Another factor would be Australia’s knowledge of Israel’s ambitions in the region. Judging by their support for Israel in countless UN General Assembly resolutions, that State’s continued disregard for international law is not a disqualifying factor. The recent decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a collateral decision to move Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem in the future only reinforces the hypocrisy of Australia’s commitment to international law.

Trump has now removed the fig leaf of Australia’s justification for being involved in the Syrian war. The political leadership literally do not know which way to turn. Hence the meaningless platitudes.

The leader of the Labor Party Bill Shorten, and likely next Prime Minister after the election scheduled for early 2019, spoke to the influential right wing think tank the Lowy Institute on 29 October 2018. On Labor’s future foreign policy he was almost as vague as the government, promising a “foreign policy with an Australian accent” whatever that may mean.

He reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to the ‘rule of law’ and the US alliance, without a hint of acknowledgement that those two principles are in fundamental conflict.

Trump’s decision should have been a golden opportunity to make a clean break with the disastrous foreign policy path that Australia has followed in the post World War 2 era. According to Michael Pembroke’s excellent account of the Korean War (2018) the Australian contingent in Korea were regularly appalled by American conduct such as the relentless bombing of civilian targets in the North; the use of biological warfare; the threats of nuclear weapons against North Korea and China; and the systematic ill treatment and murder of North Korean prisoners of war.

Rather than learn from that experience, Australia followed the United States into one imperial misadventure after another, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. That all of those ventures were characterized by lies, illegality under international law, widespread war crimes and the massive dislocation of civilian populations show a depressingly similar pattern.

One definition of insanity is to repeat the same process over and over again and expect a different result. The clear message from this government’s activities and Mr Shorten’s speech and the Labor Party conference that followed it is that under that definition Australia’s foreign policy is insane.

It seems only a matter of time before the United States makes its next major foreign policy blunder. Its provocative and belligerent activities in the South China Sea against China, and continuing support for the fascist regime in Ukraine leading to a confrontation with Russia, are the current leading candidates for the next wars. Based on history and the mindless anti-Chinese and anti-Russian rhetoric that characterizes Australia’s foreign policy ‘analysis’ it seems all too probable that Australia will once again follow faithfully in the American wake.

The costs of doing so are likely to be even more devastating than anything Australia has experienced in the past.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
https://journal-neo.org/2018/12/29/trump-s-syrian-gambit-again-exposes-australian-foreign-policy-bankruptcy/

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