Dispatches from the New! Improved! War

Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario.


The U.S. has begun its bombing campaign in Syria, ostensibly against the Islamic State, only a year after a failed effort by President Obama to initiate a bombing campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fighting between IS and various armed groups has brought about 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees across the border into Turkey. A member of NATO, Turkey has been playing a major role for the past couple of years in facilitating aid, armaments, transportation to Syrian rebel groups that had been fighting Assad. Though the Turkish government has said it will not be joining the broad coalition in the war against the Islamic State, being on the border with Syria, it is without question a major player here.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College.


Funny thing for the American president to talk about adhering to international laws. Also, Mr. Obama at the UN said that the large nations should not trample small ones in pursuit of what he called “territorial ambition”. These are curious statements coming from the American president at this time. There’s no UN resolution that allows the United States to carry out operations in Syria. You’ll remember that in Libya in 2011 there was a great hoopla made about the importance of getting a UN resolution. Here there was no attempt to get any resolution. They simply bombed in Syria. The question of international norms or international resolutions, you know, coming from Mr. Obama is not really about whether there are international norms or resolutions to uphold.

But why is Mr. Obama saying this? What is his audience? It’s plain that the American right wing, the Republicans and some sections of the Democratic Party, don’t really care about international norms. They believe in the executive authority of the president. They don’t even believe the United Nations or international law should play any role vis-à-vis American policymaking.

And then you have the world community. You know, when they hear things like big countries shouldn’t trample small countries, people keep thinking of Iraq. I mean, from 1991 till the present, Iraq sovereignty has been trampled by the United States. However you define territorial ambitions, it need not be a country that’s right next to the U.S. for it to exercise its extraterritorial or territorial ambitions. So most people around the world would not see the credibility of that statement.

I think this particular gesture comes towards the liberal wing of the American population that’s maybe a little anxious about this escalation into warfare. You know, there are people who are saying that they voted twice for Mr. Obama and they are now feeling a great sense of regret, not only over Guantanamo, etc., but now perhaps the entry into a new war in West Asia.

Liberal base sours on Obama

By Justin Sink, The Hill

09/26/14 06:00 AM EDT

Obama has taken a number of steps in recent months that put him out of step with the coalition of young adults, women and minorities that helped him win the White House.

The problems began last year with revelations about the National Security Agency’s top-secret surveillance programs – the same kind of programs that were condemned on the left during the George W. Bush years.

A Pew poll this summer found that, despite Obama’s efforts to explain and reform the surveillance programs, 58 percent of so-called “solid liberals” continued to oppose the NSA efforts.

Concerns about the president’s use of military force, meanwhile, have intensified with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Liberals largely elected President Obama in 2008 on the promise he would extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts, and the prospect of a new military campaign is not sitting well with many of them.

Since announcing that he would delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections, Obama’s numbers have plummeted with Hispanic voters. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Latino voters approved of the president’s performance, down 15 points over the past 20 months.

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