back when Politywonk was trying to gain fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister (never succeeded), one of the complaints was that working in foreign policy had made her cynical, too quick to overlook the good in even the most evil player.
Cynicism would be the proper response today, to Syria’s assurance that it wishes to place its chemical weapons under international control.
Why? Because the narrative here is not about war and peace, but about maintaining the power of the Military-Industrial-Big Union Complex. (I include Big Labor because they like large corporate employers; military exporters are some of the last ones still standing.) And to the Complex, whose main sales are in small scale and tactical weapons, this whole week has been one victory after another.
First, by drawing the line at chemical weapons, the administration has signaled that we’re fine with conventional weapons attacks on one’s own population. Indeed, as has been pointed out by many, US state and local governments sometimes do the same themselves. And small, conventional weapons are the main exports of the Complex.
Second, the history of these apparently quick diplomatic initiatives is that the US taxpayer is paying a bribe to someone we would rather not support to give us the appearance of doing what we want. The long range missiles out of Turkey being the truth behind “Russians blinked.” Five decades of propping up the Egyptian military elite after the Camp David Accords — reaffirmed this spring when the military overthrew the democratically-elected government. For you humanities majors, refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in which Wickham marries Lydia because Darcy pays off his debts and increases her dowry.
Either way, the Complex wins. It is not only Assad whose behavior requires a change. The United Nations points out — again and again — that the United States far outranks any other nation — including Russia — as an exporter of military supplies. And our customers are overwhelmingly either developing nations, i.e., regimes with shaky footing at home, or nations in regions with long-term conflicts propping up military regimes. Perhaps one reason Latin America has been so successful at shaking off military regimes is that they shook off the USA. Some of them do some arms exporting, but by and large, they have shifted to domestic priorities, with stellar results for their populace.
It is not for us to call for a world without war.
It is not for us to call for a new standard in human-to-human relationships.
It is our task now to look at our own communities — town by town, county by county — and begin to figure out what we have at stake in the Complex. We have to challenge the morality of “good-paying, manufacturing jobs” not only for what they pay, but for what they produce. And for whom.
And then, we have to face all this in the context of our national debt, our standards of living. Our government may not be killing us with chemical weapons, but it’s talking about starving a lot of us, withholding medical care for economic reasons, passing off a lot of industrial drek as acceptable food. So each of us has to examine our own home economy and figure out how to shift the sources our prosperity into endeavors that build our tax base by adding healthy services and products to the members of our society.