Friday, October 31, 2008

Wag the Dog on Syria

Yesterday I was a guest on "Evening Edition" on NewsTalk in Jamaica. It was great fun - there were two hosts who took radically opposite positions from each (sort of an island Hannity & Colmes.) One, much to my surprise, was not a knee-jerk anti-American. The other guest was professor of international law Richard Falk.

The subject of the discussion was the U.S. raid on Syria and its overall implications for international law. Falk argued that the raid on Syria was an effort to distract the public from the economy and re-focus on security matters which would help McCain in the homestretch of the election.

Obviously I made the serious argument that there was a real target to this raid - Abu Ghadiyah - who ran the network funneling foreign fighters from Syria. The foreign fighters, besides killing U.S. troops, are also responsible for murdering many hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

As the argument progressed it turned on issues of applying international law, and I observed that international law may not provide adequate responses to states like Syria which has its own - very long - record of violating international law.

But the initial argument, that this was a "wag the dog" scenario, is just silly. The economy is in such dire shape that it is very difficult to believe that any serious political adviser would conclude - with the U.S. involved in two major shooting wars - that a particular military engagement would suddenly and magically shift public opinion.

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