The Obama administration continues to reject military intervention in Syria without international cover. Obama does not want to go down the same path as George W. Bush, who occupied Iraq in a blind fury without any consideration for the United Nations, as a result of unconfirmed reports about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
There is nothing wrong with the US President upholding his country’s right to adopt a policy of peace and dialogue when it comes to settling international disputes; however behind this glittering ideal lies the Obama administration’s silent war, a war of drone strikes, missiles, assassinations and condemnations.
For the last two years, the New York Times has focused on the reported increase in drone attacks since President Barack Obama took office. During this time, the CIA has launched drone attacks against al-Qaeda elements in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia. The newspaper has dealt with this particular issue from more than one angle, highlighting the moral, military and political aspects of this, all of which disprove the peaceful approach that Obama is putting forward to the international community. The newspaper has regularly criticized the US President for saying one thing and acting otherwise, in a manner that actually consolidates the idea that the US is the world’s policeman yet it undermines international peace by interfering in other countries’ sovereignty. This in turn has jeopardized US national security and weakened all its values and principles. However, two months ago, the New York Times displayed a new degree of leniency when it published statements issued by academics and experts in philosophy and ethics, who emphasized that the targeting of terrorists using the drone technique is not only safer with less collateral damage, but it has also become a moral obligation for the US.
The American debate over this issue is yet to be settled in Congress, and it is taking place in a calculated manner without clamor.
The American people have no reservations about such air strikes as long as American soldiers do not go to the battlefields, and there is also little international outcry because these acts do not involve mobilizing foreign armies into conflict areas. Politically speaking, these drone attacks are carried out with the utmost secrecy, except in well-known instances where members of the al-Qaeda leadership have been targeted, such as Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen and Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan. When it comes to the assassinations of minor figures, these pass by unnoticed and are largely unreported by the news agencies.
It is modern warfare in the linguistic sense of the word, and electronic warfare in the scientific sense.
The emergence of advanced and critical technology in the military industry will impose a new reality. Today, we see the world mocking the Syrian air force, as the Russian-made MiG jets continue to fall as a result of missiles launched by Syrian rebels in the Idlib countryside, as easy as hunting birds. This is because these jets are old-fashioned and can no longer avoid modern anti-aircraft missiles. China surprised the US when it broadcasted a promotional documentary demonstrating its ability to manufacture a drone. Russia, India and Iran are acting likewise. Tomorrow, the sky will be full of electronic games initiated by the US. We will soon hear of missiles, bombs and rocket-launchers with expiry dates – as is the case with milk – that can be destroyed automatically and remotely after a specific time. Then the US will have no excuse for failing to provide arms to helpless people like the Syrian rebels, for fear of such arms falling into the hands of al-Qaeda later on. This is because the US will be able to destroy these weapons remotely from any American base around the world.
The international arms market no longer just consists of jets, submarines or tanks, because modern technology has brought about advanced monitoring tools and sensors, which are all major tools of guerilla warfare, as we can see in Syria today.
Despite all this, one cannot help but call what the Obama administration is doing in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen, military intervention without international cover. These countries have expressed their strong discontent towards what the US is doing, as in Pakistan nearly 2,000 people, including civilians, have been killed as a result.
Therefore, a big moral question has been raised as to whether it is possible in the democratic tradition for a military intervention to take place, bombarding locations in Pakistan and Somalia with drones irrespective of the results or targets, whilst the US refrains from providing the Syrian rebels with arms or imposing a buffer zone in a country where atrocities are taking place.
Nothing can motivate the stance of the US, with its Democratic and Republican parties, as much as rhetoric about al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda alone can prompt Washington to jump above any principle or moral obligation. Yet, Obama must be conscious that his hesitant stance towards the Syrian revolution will enable the extremists there to gain a foothold, and will also incite hatred among the Syrian people and their sympathizers in the region towards the US. This is exactly what George W. Bush did, and Obama blamed him for his failure.