Editor’s Note: Unless otherwise noted, views expressed in the magazine and on this website are those of the authors and not necessarily of the SP-USA.
In the third presidential debate, Trump was asked about U.S. intervention in Syria given that the Syrian government invited Russia, and not the U.S., to participate in the war. In addition, some Democrats, including the failed Hillary Clinton, Republicans, and military experts, have called for a no-fly zone. This would require an air war to destroy anti-aircraft emplacements and Syrian aircraft. In his response, Trump predicted that such an action would risk war with Russia.
The Syrian conflict has killed up to a half million people. It has displaced and impoverished much of the population, including many who participated in the peaceful protest movement that began in 2011, which Assad subsequently crushed. At that time, Sunni-fundamentalist fighters from the region gathered in Syria, and with financial support from U.S. Gulf-state allies, like Saudi Arabia, launched a war against the Assad regime. ISIS exploited the ensuing chaos, taking the Syrian city of Raqqa, which became its capital. In addition, part of Al Qaeda, funded by oil dollars, participated under the name of the Al-Nusra Front, later redubbed as Fateh Al-Shams.
Both opposing military forces, the Baath-party dictatorship headquartered in Damascus and the oil-funded fundamentalists, have targeted civilians. Fundamentalists use car bombs. The Syrian government enjoys indiscriminately bombing neighborhoods, hospitals, and schools from the air, which has been widely condemned as a war crime.
The Socialist Party USA has condemned these crimes against civilians, calling for an end to all bombing in Syria, including U.S. participation. U.S. military intervention can only worsen the situation, as occurred in Iraq and Libya. Socialists should not criticize Syrians struggling to survive under the bombing for calling for help from any quarter. American socialists, however, know what to expect from “humanitarian” military actions by their government and its allies. They have seen its fruits: the destruction of Vietnam and the devastation of Central America, Iraq, and Libya.
A street rally in London on November 5 called for “Western Democracies,” i.e. imperialist military powers, to stop “hiding the fire extinguisher” that could put out the fire in Syria set by Russia, Iran, and Damascus. Anyone paying attention would see this rally as a call for an imperialist war in Syria. To the contrary, socialists don’t advocate imperialist wars. They protest them and reject rallies like the one in London.
As socialists, we need to protest the bombing and actions like a no-fly zone. We stand against dictatorships and war criminals, and oppose them publicly. Our main responsibility is to oppose the war machine at home, by reaching out to form inclusive action coalitions that can build rallies and marches in the streets big enough to stop the next U.S. war.