All imperialist war is motivated by material interest. When watching the news and attempting to analyze the motives of the imperial powers, this must be remembered first and foremost. The Center for Communist Studies roundly denounces all attacks by the imperial powers, including the latest airstrikes against the sovereign state of Syria.
There are several questions that must be answered.
Why are the strikes occurring?
There is only one material answer to this question. The airstrikes are occurring as an act of imperial warfare, an element of the “great game.” This pits the United States and its NATO allies against the Oriental Other in the form of Russia, Syria, and the PRC.
The imperial conflicts of the 19th century are being reprised as we speak. Great power politics, typified by the escalation of conflict through proxy states until it boils over into open warfare, has traditionally aligned along the liminal region of imperial possessions: we have seen, within the past two decades, the resumption of imperial conflict in those traditional regions; Crimea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria. The Crimean reprisal has replaced the part of the continental European allies with a last-minute substitution: the NATO alliance.
Of course, imperial posturing by the European powers (backed with American might) has a more recent pedigree. For the capitalist powers, these imperial conflicts essentially never ceased: Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and the “Middle East” were theaters of the so-called “Cold” War. They have all been battlegrounds again in recent years. Of course, during the existence of the USSR, these Great Power conflicts were imperial in but one vector. They remain more or less monopolar, though the entry of the People’s Republic of China on behalf of the threatened peoples of Syria lends a counterbalance to the ambitions of the capitalist powers.
What is important to understand, however, is that the United States is playing by substantially the same playbook today as the one it used during the “Cold” War. To comprehend the motives of the U.S. war machine, one must only study the goals, designs, and desires of the U.S. governmental agencies throughout the latter portion of that war. Insofar as Syria is concerned, the particular policies that are worth examining are those of both Great Britain and the United States towards Iran.
Intervention in the region has been based on an old British imperial policy of connecting client states clear through to their imperial possessions in India. This policy was primarily engineered to counter perceived or actual Russian threats from the Caucasus border which might imperil British interests in the subcontinent. Indeed, it is instructive to note that the attacks on British territories from Russia and Russian territories by Britain were focused on mobilizing and agitating the colonized and oppressed nationalities within either territorial empire.
It was this policy, along with the desire to prevent a nascent democratic and revolutionary Iran (experiencing its own bourgeois revolution and transitioning from a totalitarian monarchy) from successfully nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, that led to the first U.S. intervention in Iranian politics. These material interests (protecting the British line of march, keeping the British oil companies supplying U.S. concerns) led those powers to support a royalist counter-revolution. Of course, as is probably well-known to the reader, it was this counter-revolutionary monarchy that was overthrown by the ’78-‘79 revolution. Since deposing the puppet-Shah, Iran has stood as a regional power staunchly opposed to Western meddling in the region. To this end, it has become a polestar for U.S. policy that any action which can degrade Iranian influence, bolster the power of the US-proxy states of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and give the U.S. empire an increased military presence from which to project power and control the major oil pipelines is one which the ruling class will rally behind. The only ambiguities left are those that arise from attempting to explain the apparent division between the “hawk” Republicans and “dove” Democrats.
These party divisions are laid bare whenever U.S. foreign policy is truly at risk or when real gains are within grasp. The “doves” merely wish to exercise soft power as a matter of course, to achieve the same policy goals that the “hawks” desire. Notice, however, the utter silence from the so-called moderates among the Democrats to the recent strike against Syria. Where are the fiery condemnations? Primarily on the radical left and the extreme reactionary right. Of course, these groups arrive at the same conclusion by opposite roads: the extreme rightists misunderstand the purposes of imperial war and see it as a useless expenditure of lives, materiel, and political capital. This may arise from a misdirected and false class-consciousness, but that question is far outside the scope of this statement.
Syria, then, represents an opportunity for the U.S. war interests to colonize another region of that liminal space between the Western imperial powers and the remaining Eastern communist powers. Syria is also aligned with Iranian interests, and attacking it advances the U.S. position to isolate Iran, prevent it from developing nuclear weapons capable of ensuring its sovereignty (in the same vein as was recently achieved by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), and bolster the positions of the comprador bourgeoisie in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other NATO-influenced states.
Whatever the interests are on the ground in Syria, those that provide an excuse for intervention will be embraced and amplified by Western imperial propaganda.
So far, this response has been a limited strike, primarily designed for the effects of:
1. Chastening the Syrian government;
2. Killing civilians to destabilize Syria;
3. Tying up Russian and Iranian assets in the region; and
4. Furthering the Kurdish program to enable further U.S. base-building in their territory.
The only reason Trump has been restrained from starting a world war by means of a massive ground invasion is because cooler heads in the ruling class have prevailed. The support of reactionary (but anti-imperialist) Russia and the PRC make a proxy war in Syria of uncertain outcome, particularly in the current climate, in which a trade war and potential shooting war on the Korean peninsula have been developing. These, taken together, may be conflicts the United States cannot win.
What do the strikes mean domestically?
Internally, the strikes will unite the currently divided elements of the bourgeois class in the United States. Class interests are always clearest and keenest when an existential threat to the class or its empire surfaces; this may be such a threat, considering the involvement of Russia and the PRC.
This is borne out by the silence of the Democrats in the face of this illegal, unprovoked, aggression. Compare the silence or even explicit support of the murderous regime of Israel in the previous weeks. It is not violence or death of innocents that the imperial bourgeoisie deplores—it is only scent of danger or opportunity for an expansion of the U.S. empire.
The overwhelming class interest is currently to act in concerted support of the conflict and ensure that it escalates according to a safe, controlled, plan that does not spiral out of control into a generalized conflict with the PRC. Trump, regardless of his ineptitude, has shown the willingness to listen to his generals here. When push comes to shove, he appears to be obeying the dictates of bourgeois class interests.
This implies a tacit relaxation of the furiously proceeding attempts of the bourgeoisie to expel Trump from power in the form of the Mueller investigation and the constant media pressure on the “Russia narrative.” In order to prosecute a successful war, the bourgeois interests must transform themselves from hated enemies to trusted advisors. The security of Trump’s position as the de facto head of the global bourgeois class will depend on his willingness to accept the advice of those former enemies.
Notice that the Democrats are calling for Congress to approve any further actions in Syria—not for a halting of action in Syria. This is a tactic to determine whether or not they can have some degree of authority and control as to the progression of this proxy war.
What should we do?
What is the evidence, taken objectively, that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people? It comes as no surprise that the strike was made before the opportunity for an international investigation.
This is only but a continuation of imperialist aggression and interference in Syria, and as communists we must stand in solidarity with Syria. It is important that we loudly proclaim that we will not support any imperial intervention in Syria, no matter the supposed humanitarian reason. As communists, we will never stand behind supporting the forces of imperialism and instead we support the right of self determination. No to bombing, No to intervention, and No to war.
Z. on behalf of The Center for Communist Studies