Published:  01:45 AM, 16 April 2018

Strikes on Syria are strikes at global morality

The coordinated and concerted missile strikes on Syria by the United States, Britain and France are yet again proof of the threat of a violation of sovereignty faced by weaker nations at the hands of powerful states. There is definitely concern, a very legitimate one, of whether or not the Bashar Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own citizens. It is a concern which needs deep and purposeful handling.

But that concern has now been upstaged by the impunity with which missiles have rained down on Syria. The United Nations has been pushed to the sidelines, the principle of the inviolability of the sovereignty of states and nations has been turned on its head.

And the world has been served the ghastly message that it is all right for weaker nations to be targeted with weapons of deadly intent, that there is little need to engage in diplomacy with such nations. Interestingly, nations like North Korea, with their arsenal of nuclear weapons, are left untouched. The state of Israel, despite its callous disregard of Palestinian rights, is pampered. Hypocrisy comes in handy for the powerful and, today, the increasingly arrogant of states in the global community.

The sovereignty of nations around the world is under clear threat. American drones endlessly violate Pakistani sovereignty with their targeted attacks on terrorist hubs, not bothering to seek Islamabad's permission. In the early years of this century, George W. Bush and Tony Blair merrily marched into Iraq, on the basis of the lie that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No WMDs were found, but Iraq was pummeled into pieces nevertheless. It was a diabolical instance of the violation of Iraq's sovereignty by the governments of the US and Britain.

Invasions have historically been counter-productive. The Nazis learnt that lesson long ago. The Soviet Union blundered into Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979 --- and paid the price. America and Britain stormed into Afghanistan in the aftermath of the attacks on the twin towers in New York and found themselves trapped in its complex tribal politics. The march of folly by Lyndon Johnson's America into Vietnam remains an epic of tragic proportions.

It is the arrogance of those who order attacks on states, who send their forces into sovereign countries, which has in modern times left the international order badly frayed. Ronald Reagan sent American troops into Granada, and so let the world know that for its talk of democracy and rule of law, Washington could without embarrassment occupy a country whose policies it did not like. In his time, George H.W. Bush sent commandos into Panama, who physically lifted Manuel Noriega into an aircraft and deposited him in Florida to face trial on a series of charges.

In these two decades since the beginning of the 21st century, foreign invasion has left the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan ground to dust. Both countries are a synonym for chaos and none of the political men and women who have caused all this misery have been charged with war crimes. Indeed, the height of irony was reached when, soon after the destruction of Iraq and the shameful execution of Saddam Hussein, the proposal was made for Bush and Blair to be honoured with the Nobel Prize for Peace. Mercifully, the world was spared the shame of seeing these warmongers hailed as peacemakers.

Today, the dark proposition that independent nations and states can be struck or invaded with impunity has come alive once again with the strikes on Syria. We cannot say for certain that the missile strikes were not aimed at their domestic audiences by President Trump, Prime Minister May and President Macron, for all three leaders face exigencies which need handling on the home front. Trump faces mid-term elections in November; May has local elections early next month; and Macron has been buffeted by strikes on various fronts. The thought is something one cannot dismiss out of hand.

The bigger thought is that these powerful men and women in powerful countries must be stopped from becoming the new rulers of the world. That the chemical weapons issue in Damascus must be investigated is a point well taken. But what is indefensible is the hubris which the United States, Britain and France have brought into their behaviour on the global scene.

The missile strikes on Syria are immoral. They are a sign of the poverty in western politics, a broad hint of the absence of intellectualism in its interaction with the outside world. They are a reckless assault on decency, a molestation of the international political order. Weak nations are not safe before the predatory instincts of the world's powerful states.

-Syed Badrul Ahsan

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