09 September 2013

Shall We Play A Game? Van Jones proposes virtual war with Syria

A few years ago Van Jones emerged as a prominent new bogeyman in the Republican demonology, an Obama administration appointee with a record of controversial positions who was eventually hounded out of office. He now has a regular gig debating Newt Gingrich on CNN's once-reviled, now revived Crossfire program. To boost Jones, CNN has published an op-ed today in which he calls out all opponents of the invasion of Iraq, urging them to oppose attacks against Syria. Jones makes a three-point argument. First, while Bush made a dodgy case for invasion to the UN, Obama as yet has not bothered making a case at all to that body. Second, while critics mocked Bush's "coalition of the willing," Obama barely has a coalition beyond France and perhaps Turkey. Third, while Bush was condemned after the fact for having no real plan to secure the peace in Iraq, Obama doesn't even have a plan to win the war, as far as Jones can tell.

Those are three strong arguments, and Jones isn't done. At the same time, however, he feels obliged to state that "The situation in Syria would break the heart of anyone who has one." For that reason, Jones makes clear that he and other "progressives" definitely want an end to chemical weapons attacks. He proposes two ways to end them. The first seems sensible enough, if not feasible: renew diplomatic efforts with the international allies of the Assad regime (i.e. Russia) to bring all the Syrian factions to the negotiating table. I don't really see this going anywhere because the only peaceful solution I can see is one that keeps Assad as the head of state, and I can't see all (or maybe any) of the rebel factions accepting that. Still, it's the right suggestion for an outsider to make. Unfortunately, Jones has another suggestion:

Disrupt and deter without violence. Cyberwarfare has proven extremely effective containing Iran and disrupting its nuclear program through the Stuxnet virus U.S. intelligence agencies developed. A similar cyber campaign aimed at disabling the communications and weapons delivery systems of the Assad regime could "degrade" al-Assad's ability to attack innocent civilians just the same.

Jones describes this as an "option short of war." I guess that's why they call it cyberwarfare. Maybe Jones thinks it's not war if there's no "violence." But he's just recommended interfering with the military command structure of a sovereign state waging a civil war. Better still, his approach guarantees a response from the Syrian Electronic Army, which has already proven its ability to disrupt American communications, at least at the commercial-journalism level. Perhaps a demonstration against CNN would be a timely reminder of their potential. Leaving aside whether Syria has an effective deterrent for the sort of short-of-warfare Jones proposes, we should ask how his proposal is any less a violation of international norms, as opposed to a violation of progressive sensibilities. The fundamental question Jones needs to ask himself is: do outsiders have any right to interfere in the Syrian civil war? The answer is either an absolute No or an unrestricted Yes. It's the unilateral interference, not the violence of war, that has to be opposed, unless Syria is only the first stop on the way to true world government binding and enforceable everywhere on earth. That really would be a progressive idea, but Van Jones probably isn't that kind of progressive. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about this: We stay out of it. It is none of our business. The average American citizen does not profit from Syria, no matter who rules it, so it is NOT in America's interest to involve itself, once again, where it is not welcome to begin with.