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Latest Posts

Syrian Christians: 'Help Us to Stay - Stop Arming Terrorists'
Outgoing artillery shook St Elias church as the priest reached the end of the Lord's Prayer.

26 November 2014read on...

We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?
Should police officer Darren Wilson be held accountable for the shooting death of unarmed citizen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014?

25 November 2014read on...

'Coercive Diplomacy' and the Failure of the Nuclear Negotiations
After more than a year of negotiations between the United States and Iran, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement by the agreed deadline in July.  They have agreed to continue negotiating, but the failure to meet the deadline was clearly not caused by the lack of time.

25 November 2014read on...

What Does Hagel's Ouster Mean for US Syria Policy?
Does today's pink slip to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signal a big victory to the humanitarian interventionists and neocons pushing President Obama to go for broke against Assad in Syria? RPI's Daniel McAdams was on RT this morning to give his take.

24 November 2014read on...

Reform the CIA? What Good Would That Do?
After all, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, these two agencies operate in secret. Moreover, they know that they can do anything they want, including breaking the law, and that nothing will ever happen to them.

24 November 2014read on...

Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a Victory for Freedom
It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.

23 November 2014read on...

ISIS: Fighting the Modern Wahabis Sir John Baggot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, was one of the modern Mideast’s most colorful and romantic figures. He and ‘Chinese’ Gordon of Khartoum were the last of the great British imperial officers.

22 November 2014read on...

Lew Rockwell: Europe Bowing to US Hegemon on Russia Sanctions
Mises Institute
 Chairman and Ron Paul Institute Board Member Lew Rockwell speaks out against US-instigated sanctions on Russia in a recent RT interview. With reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be easing toward the notion of dialogue with the Russian leadership, Rockwell warns that unless Europe wakes up and stops taking orders from the US, its foolish policy toward Russia may well lead the EU into a serious recession.

22 November 2014read on...

Ron Paul: 'Help!' Looking at the entrance to the little, spartan headquarters of my Institute for Peace and Prosperity here in Clute, Texas, I wonder how long it will be here. Not long, I am afraid, without your help.



20 November 2014read on...

Biden in Ukraine, War Surely to Follow
US Vice President Joe Biden's plane has touched down in the Ukrainian capitol to meet with US-backed president, Petro Poroshenko, and prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. If the past is prologue, we should expect a full-fledged assault by Kiev on the breakaway eastern part of the country to begin at anytime.

20 November 2014read on...

Featured Articles

Syria and the Waning of American Hegemony


Obamasyria1

Once carried out, the Obama administration’s thoroughly telegraphed strike on Syria, ostensibly over alleged chemical weapons use there, will mark an important inflection point in the terminal decline of America’s Middle East empire.  Most importantly, it will confirm that America’s political class, including Obama himself, remains unwilling to face the political risks posed by any fundamental revision of Washington’s 20+-year, deeply self-damaging drive to dominate the region.

Obama initially ran for president pledging to end the “mindset” behind the strategic blunder of America’s 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq; in his first term, he committed to ending America’s war in Afghanistan, too, and to “rebalancing” toward Asia.  But Obama was never ready to spend the political capital required for thoroughgoing recasting of U.S. foreign policy; consequently, the dissipation of American power (hard and soft) evident under George W. Bush has accelerated under Obama.

Obama’s approach to Syria illustrates why.  Since conflict started there two and a half years ago, Washington has had openings for a negotiated resolution.  This, though, would entail power-sharing between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and oppositionists and cooperation with Russia, Iran, and China to fix a settlement.  Instead, Obama doubled down on reasserting American hegemony. 

When unrest began in Syria in March 2011, Obama and his team were desperate to show—after the loss of pro-Western regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and near-misses in Bahrain and Yemen—that the Arab Awakening did not just threaten authoritarian orders that subordinated their foreign policy to Washington.  They wanted to show that leaders committed to foreign policy independence—like Assad—were vulnerable, too.  They also calculated that Assad’s ouster would tilt the regional balance against Tehran, generating leverage to force Iran’s surrender of its right to an internationally safeguarded but indigenous nuclear fuel cycle.

Two years ago, Obama declared that Assad “must go,” eviscerating prospects for a political settlement.  Obama further damaged diplomatic prospects with three UN Security Council resolutions effectively authorizing coercive regime change in Damascus, which Russia and China vetoed.  His Syria strategy rested on the surreal proposition that a staggeringly fractious “opposition,” much of which publicly aligns with al-Qa’ida and is not supported by anything close to a majority of Syrians, would unseat Assad, who (according to polls and other evidence) enjoys support from at least half of Syrian society.

Obama compounded all this with an equally foolish declaration that chemical weapons use was a U.S. “red line”—giving those looking for U.S. intervention motive to gas innocent civilians.  Now that such weapons have been used, Obama cannot entertain that oppositionists may be responsible, for this would undercut his Syria strategy.  His administration has presented no evidence that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in Ghouta; when it alleged chemical weapons use at Khan al-Assal in March, it also offered no evidence of government responsibility.  By contrast, Russia publicly presented a detailed forensic analysis showing that neither the munitions used at Khan al-Assal nor the chemical agent in them had been industrially manufactured and that, “therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons.”  Washington rejected this—and, after trying to derail a UN investigation of more recent allegations about Ghouta, has preemptively dismissed whatever UN inspectors there now may conclude.

With these positions, Obama has left himself no option except using force to preserve U.S. “credibility.”  His planned strike, though, is illegal.  Even if chemical weapons were used, it does not justify U.S. aggression.  Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC); the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to which it is a party, only proscribes chemical weapons use in war against another state.  Neither designates Washington as its “enforcer.”  More broadly, the United Nations Charter, which America largely drafted, forbids using force except under two circumstances:    

  • “[I]f an armed attack occurs against a” member state; regardless of who used chemical weapons in Syria, no other state was attacked or threatened with attack, so the “right of individual or collective self-defense” posited in the Charter does not apply (unless one stretches the definition of “self-defense” to mean “anything Washington does not like”).    
  • When the Security Council authorizes force “to maintain or restore international peace and security”; no such resolution is in effect for Syria, and Russia and China will prevent the Council from adopting one.  

Lack of legality has undermined the willingness of the Arab League and even of usually reliable hangers-on like Britain to endorse a strike.  When Obama moves, he will have a smaller coalition than Bill Clinton or George W. Bush had for their illegal wars in, respectively, Kosovo and Iraq. 

Obama’s strike will further accelerate erosion of America’s position in the Middle East.  Assad will emerge with greater political support, not less; Russian and Chinese influence will be enhanced.  While backing Assad has cost Iran and Hizballah some of the popularity they accrued with Sunni Arab publics from their long records of “resistance” to Israel and America, both judge that, if either America or Israel becomes militarily involved in Syria, this will undercut Saudi-sponsored narratives depicting the conflict in sectarian terms, transforming it into more Iranian-led resistance.  Obama is about to oblige them—ushering in a regional balance increasingly tilted against the United States.
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