On April 13, 2018, in response to allegations of the use of chemical weapons on civilians by the Syrian government, over 100 missiles were launched at Homs, a city with a population of roughly 200,000, equivalent in size to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Damascus, a city of over 1.7 million people, larger than Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and with a population density of over 57,000 per square mile, about double that of New York City. I mention this to give us perspective. These missiles were fired on major urban population centers. Even with no reported casualties, this was a major military action taken by the United States.
These airstrikes on Syria are testing the waters for an outright war. Trump performed a similar strike almost a year earlier, only at half the strength of this one. If a formidable anti-war movement does not rise up, it worries me that we could see continued escalation of American involvement in the Syrian conflict. A war with Syria would further destabilize a region which has been devastated by decades of Western colonialism, imperialism and interventionism. Let us remember the failures of American interference in Iraq and Libya, which have done nothing but create more problems for those countries.
The American government doesn’t care about the Syrian people — if it did, it would be implementing programs to help refugees instead of bombing their home country. Furthermore, it is a shame and a travesty that the American government believes that spreading death and warmongering in Syria is a more important use of resources than using those same resources to fund programs that save and improve lives in the United States. Neither the people of Syria nor the people of the United States benefit from these actions, but arms manufacturers like Raytheon do, and they are poised to benefit even further if American military involvement in Syria continues to escalate.
In 2016, Donald Trump presented himself as a champion on a form of “America First” anti-interventionist foreign policy that would bring an end to the American military quagmire in the Middle East. I bring this up not as some mere jab at his hypocrisy, nor to suggest that there was ever a chance of Trump not towing the existing imperialist foreign policy line. Rather, I want to use it to remind us that many political candidates present themselves as “anti-war” when running for office, but who continue to expand American military intervention abroad after they are elected.
An anti-war movement cannot succeed as a merely electoral campaign. It requires constant protest and agitation until the American military-industrial complex has been dismantled. As was observed by Marine Corps General Smedley Butler (whose opposition to wars of aggression was matched only by his equally un-bellicose name,) the war machine “can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.”