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.
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.