THE THIN RED LINE

AS­SAD COULD AF­FORD TO DARE WASH­ING­TON NOT BE­CAUSE OBAMA WAS TOO CAU­TIOUS TO MED­DLE IN THE AF­FAIRS OF OTHER COUN­TRIES. IT WAS NOT CAU­TION. IT WAS IN­DIF­FER­ENCE. AMER­ICA AS A GLOBAL SU­PER­POWER WITH A MORAL RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY IS NOT THE IDEA OBAMA WANTS TO SELL.

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It was in an­other age, when a moral­ist in Wash­ing­ton with a bib­li­cal sense of Good and Evil de­clared war on the Me­sopotamian tyrant pre­sid­ing over the “Repub­lic of Fear”. Then all the noise was about the weapons of mass de­struc­tion and the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a su­per­power— and, of course, the im­per­a­tives of a just war. There were har­rumphers every­where, and protest marches, led by left lib­eral paci­fists and Is­lamists, against the ex­tra- ter­ri­to­rial trans­gres­sion of the Im­perium in places as dis­tant as Malap­pu­ram and Lon­don. The neo- con­ser­va­tive pas­sion for regime change was con­demned by in­cor­ri­gi­ble Third World­ists and pro­fes­sional anti- Amer­i­can­ists. The Baathist dic­ta­tor moved from one gilded bunker to an­other on the Ti­gris as Amer­i­can mis­siles came look­ing for him. Iraq’s mo­ment of lib­er­a­tion was not when Bagh­dad fell; it was when Sad­dam Hus­sein, a bearded, di­shev­elled par­ody of his Ne­buchad­nez­zar self- por­trait, stepped out of the spi­der hole. Iraq may be steeped in tribal blood­lust still. Isn’t the rite of freedom bloody across the Mid­dle East? A deSad­damised Iraq is a bet­ter place.

Not an­other Iraq please! That is what we hear from the anti- in­ter­ven­tion­ists about Syria to­day. That is what Ge­orge W. Bush’s suc­ces­sor in the White House wants to hear too. For Barack Obama, Iraq was a phoney war. Why does he want a limited mis­sile at­tack on Syria? Why, in spite of the pres­i­den­tial pre­rog­a­tive, has he gone out of his way to win the Con­gres­sional vote? Be­cause Bashar al As­sad crossed the “red line” Obama had drawn against the use of chem­i­cal weapon. Obama’s heart broke when nearly 1,500 peo­ple died out­side Da­m­as­cus in a poi­son gas at­tack by the As­sad regime. All Obama wants is to teach As­sad a les­son, quick and pre­cise, a whiplash for a nasty ruler who dared to cross the Obama Line of Con­trol.

Did Obama, or for that mat­ter any of his al­lies, re­ally need a gas at­tack in Da­m­as­cus to re­alise the can­ni­bal­is­tic temp­ta­tions of As­sad? The UN has just called Syria the “hu­man­i­tar­ian calamity of the cen­tury”. In just two years, more than 100,000 died in the civil war, and mil­lions are home­less. All this while Wash­ing­ton didn’t doubt that As­sad crossed the red line. As­sad could af­ford to dare Wash­ing­ton not be­cause Obama was too cau­tious to med­dle in the af­fairs of other coun­tries. It was not cau­tion. It was in­dif­fer­ence. Amer­ica as a global su­per­power with a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity is not the idea Obama wants to sell. This shift in the power per­cep­tion of Wash­ing­ton suits As­sad and his friends in places like Iran and Rus­sia. The im­pend­ing in­ter­ven­tion in Syria is a point­less ex­er­cise for the sim­ple rea­son that the dead­li­est poi­son in Da­m­as­cus is called Bashar As­sad. Amer­ica is least in­ter­ested in re­mov­ing it. As­sad pere, along with his ri­val Sad­dam, were the Baathist bul­lies of Ara­bia. The son, a western­ised eye doc­tor, in­her­ited one of the most closed so­ci­eties in the world— and promised change in the be­gin­ning. Bashar As­sad will be safer in his bunker to su­per­vise the killing fields as long as Wash­ing­ton rules out regime change as an op­tion.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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