US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has inadvertently made the strongest case yet for the power of the 'Iraq Syndrome' in US foreign policy. This is the current equivalent and heir to the better known Vietnam syndrome that American militarists had hoped been eradicated by the 'good wars' in Serbia and Bosnia back in the 1990s and more recently through 'successful' regime change via warfare in Libya.
Kerry's London press conference today, flanked by the equally helpless UK foreign secretary, smarting from parliament's recent rejection of illegal British military strikes on Syria, displayed an almost ridiculous attempt to justify US aggression by suggesting that America's aggression would be an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort." And that's what most people clearly do not believe will be the case.
Kerry's remarks showed up a level of Orwellian doublespeak that is the hallmark of a desperate power under a desperate administration. America's global credibility is at an all time low.
"We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in
troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very
limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to
deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's
Kerry demanded that the Assad regime give up to the US its entire chemical weapons stock in 7 days or face attack. The state department later retracted the threat by suggesting that it was entirely rhetorical and not a real deadline at all.
The bigger concern, the state department said, was that Assad's was a regime that had "a history of playing fast and loose with the facts" - with no irony intended given the manipulated intelligence produced to justify war on Iraq by Britain and the United States in 2003.
According to the Guardian, Kerry stated that "the entire US intelligence community was united in believing Assad was responsible," a claim denied in a report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence which acknowledged, according to the AP news agency, "that the U.S. intelligence community no longer
has the certainty it did six months ago of where the regime's chemical
weapons are stored, nor does it have proof Assad ordered chemical
weapons use, according to two intelligence officials and two more U.S.
With US public opinion - across both main political parties - ranged against military aggression against Syria, albeit for a variety of pragmatic rather than principled reasons, the Obama administration's attempts to drum up war fever is back-firing. Hence, the attempts to fall back on rhetoric suggesting that US strikes will be incredibly, unbelievably miniscule, that you won't even notice them.
This is a welcome low moment for US power.. and probably a very dangerous one too. But the specter of Iraq now haunts American foreign policy.