It’s War

Last night US President Trump, without the Pentagon’s consent, without waiting for the UN to finish its investigation as to whether the massacre of 72 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun, was attributable to Assad or "collateral damage", gave the order to launch 59 missiles against the Syrian air base from which the gas attack would have been launched. The airport was destroyed as oil supplies and weapons flew into the air with at least 5 deaths in Assad’s military.

Trump’s decision was initially justified as a sort of vengeful riposte of a very compassionate and God-fearing heart after seeing the horror of twenty-seven children killed in a criminal operation. But then bit by bit other reasons have been put forward that have little to do with humanitarianism. The American President had always strongly complained about his predecessor, Obama not having the strength to carry out the military task against the dictator Assad. It’s a bit like he’s saying "Now it's my turn to do what you couldn’t do." Another reason has also emerged: The defence of American interests which the continuing Syrian crisis is undermining. "Uncontrolled" Syrian migration to the United States not only runs the risk of importing terrorists but also gives them a chance to “steal” jobs.

Of course none of this is true. Trump’s drastic action has other roots, both domestic and international. The domestic one is that, with the lowest approval rating that any newly elected American president has ever had, he had to do something "extraordinary" to give credibility to his verbal "shots".

Moreover, the much-trumpeted economic revival is both hesitant and worrying. The US economy has been improving but at rates that are too low for the expectations raised. The public debt of $19.2 trillion is equal to 105% of GDP. It was $18.992 trillion in 2015 after years of Quantitative Easing. It was "only" $9.267 trillion in 2007 at the beginning of the crisis, which, lest we forget, really began with the economic and financial contradictions in the US. The economic recovery, or so-called recovery, also reflects a strong decentralisation of production, entire sectors such as manufacturing and steel have long been in the hands of China and Japan. German competition in engineering (vehicles) is very acute. The balance of payments has reached a record high deficit of $500 billion. The millions of jobs supposedly created by the Obama administration give a false impression because you only have to work 15 days a year to be considered employed. In addition the new jobs are very often precarious, or on very short-term temporary contracts and underpaid. In "post-crisis" US there is much discontent. It is no coincidence that 90 million people eligible to vote in the last Presidential elections saw fit to stay home because they no longer believe that any of the ruling class, right or left, has even a partial solution to their economic and social problems. 50% of those 90 million live below the poverty line, have not had a steady job for years, whilst surviving on food stamps with no health insurance. All factors that sooner or later could see the most advanced capitalist country in the world erupt. So Trump’s action is a reminder of the need to "defend" those promises of heaven and earth to the American people; a strong deed worthy of the words that he has uttered

On the international scene Trump has understood that to stand by, as the previous administration partly did, could cause significant damage to US imperialism allowing their imperialist competitors to make further advances. Let’s leave aside the trade issue where the new President has threatened to tear up all international treaties like NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico, the TPP and TTIP, not to mention accusing China of unfair competition and threatening it and Europe (read Germany) with heavy customs duties to recover lost ground in the US trade deficit with other countries. What is currently the most pressing problem for the new US administration is the strong and visibly armed return of US imperialism to one of the hottest areas of the international arena, the Middle East, Syria and the Mediterranean.

The "Assad question" is irrelevant if discussed only in terms of his character as dictator. The real problem for Trump is to prevent Russia from supporting the regime of "dictator of Damascus" and with it Putin’s opportunity to maintain Russia’s merchant, and especially, military fleets in the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus. The United States is aiming for commercial and military control of the seas. In theory, the US Navy is able to prohibit navigation and docking at strategic ports to anyone through the unquestioned superiority of its navy. The III, IV, V, VI and VII fleets are respectively in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, as well as in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. 90% of world trade passes through these seas. Together Admirals Nora Tyson, Sean Pybus and Kevin Donegan control access to international shipping routes, access that could very well be denied or revoked by force if US imperialism so wished. So giving their Russian opponent a free hand over the Syrian issue would bring the risk of greater naval rivalry in the Mediterranean and big trouble for the strategies of the Pentagon. Trump has increased the budget of the Defense Ministry by more than 10% (about $52 billion) to prepare for immediate war operations and for a short-term programme of rearmament.

No wonder, then, that the Syrian operation, though planned earlier, was carried out suddenly at night, without Congressional consent and without a UN Commission of Inquiry throwing the light of international law on this use of chemical weapons. It’s a warning to those who need it. To Russia over military hegemony in the Mediterranean, to China to keep a tight rein on North Korea, "otherwise we'll do it", to Iran, which directly participates in the war against Isis trying to make imperialist gains in terms of territory and oil against the US’ Saudi ally. The Shi’ite front has developed throughout the six years of war in Syria. From the Lebanese Hezbollah to the Iranian-Iraqi Shiite axis defending Assad under Russian leadership and which, moreover, fought in Ukraine after the Crimean peninsula was seized by Russia. Behind all this there is, as ever, the war over "pipelines", like the recent and precarious Russian Turkish Stream project and those of the Turkish, Azerbaijani and Russian pipelines to Europe and Asia, all competing over the price of crude oil and for control of the trade routes of the Asian gas market.

Trump’s arrogant and shameless act of aggression might come as a surprise but not a great one if you take into account the factors that we have briefly focused on here. The crisis is still making its nefarious consequences felt. The major imperialist powers are mobilising with worrying speed and determination. From a strategic standpoint the indiscriminate use of force and the risk that it could turn into general carnage across a range of contested territories has become the most likely course on both the military and economic fronts. Faced with this prospect which is already partly a reality, as well as condemning war, the massacres of innocents that it produces, the barbarism of a capitalist world in permanent crisis, and therefore more dangerous than ever we must add a tragic appeal to the masses worldwide. If this is the imminent future for humanity, if this brutalisation of society leads only to war, to the destruction of everything and everyone in the name of preservation of the capitalist economic and social system which has caused it, then we have to make war on war, to struggle against capitalism for a world that has no need of exploitation, crises, wars and millions of dead to survive. Only a revolutionary process can stop the war and with it destroy the economic system that sustains it. Only a new way of organising the production and distribution of social wealth can and must be a guarantee that such barbarity is not continually repeated with tragic inevitability.


7 April 2017

Translated from the Italian 8 April 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017