There should be no misunderstandings over what is about to happen in Syria. When the US and their allies – and the UK may well be joining them yet – attack Syria it will be for the purpose of regime change and not as a ‘punishment’ for using gas against civilians. The ‘punishment’ or ‘punitive’ rhetoric being used currently is purely for propaganda purposes in an effort to swing public opinion to support an attack.
The court of public opinion in the West these days, especially when it comes to the possibility of going to war in the Middle East, is particularly important to politicians after the fiasco in Iraq. In the lead up to that war public opinion was dead set against it but the politicians took their people off to war anyway only find that there were no WMDs, the reason for going to war in the first place, and chaos and mayhem has reigned ever since.
American public opinion has been firmly against attacking Syria though many have hinted they would change their view if President Obama were to gain the approval of Congress. As a result of public opinion, Obama is now seeking just that from Congress though whether he gets it or not is still debateable. Approval is by no means assured. Many Democrats are uneasy about going to war again in the Middle East so, while Democrats control the Senate, Obama may still need to do some convincing before he’s able to get them on side. Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, controlled by the Republicans, many senior Republicans who are hard right-wing conservatives, while generally supportive of a war against Syrian Bashir al-Assad, despise Obama and may not support him unless he promised to go for regime change. Other Republicans on the other hand are concerned that any ‘punitive’ strike might roll on to some other more long term objective. All in all, Congressional support is not a given and, needless to say, neoconservatives are against punitive action and will only support action that results in regime change.
Clearly, Obama is anxious about public opinion and, while he is keenly aware of what happened to British Prime Minister David Cameron when he looked to Parliament for support for a strike against Syria, Obama obviously prefers to do what Congress demands rather than incur the wrath of the American people. Democracy suddenly works.
But it’s all for show. It will not change the result. Regime change will ultimately occur and, in the process, war will escalate to include Israel who will attack Hezbollah and Hamas. The headline news about whether or not al-Assad should be punished will be forgotten as the tragedy of war once again erupts through the Middle East with the potential of making the one going on now in Syria look like a small skirmish.