The refugee chaos that is now pushing deep into Europe — dramatized by gut-wrenching photos of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey — started with the cavalier ambitions of American neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks who planned to remake the Middle East and other parts of the world through “regime change.”
Instead of the promised wonders of “democracy promotion” and “human rights,” what these “anti-realists” have accomplished is to spread death, destruction and destabilization across the Middle East and parts of Africa and now into Ukraine and the heart of Europe. Yet, since these neocon forces still control the official narrative, their explanations get top billing —such as that there hasn’t been enough “regime change.”
For instance, the Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt has blamed “realists” for the cascading catastrophes. Hiatt castigated them and President Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Syria to depose President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime neocon target for “regime change.”
But the truth is that this accelerating spread of human suffering can be traced back directly to the unchecked influence of the neocons and their liberal fellow-travelers who have resisted political compromise and, in the case of Syria, blocked any realistic efforts to work out a power-sharing agreement between Assad and his political opponents, those who are not terrorists.
Any suggestion that the only realistic option in Syria is a power-sharing compromise that would include Assad — who is viewed as the protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities — is rejected out of hand with the slogan, “Assad must go!”
The neocons have created a conventional wisdom that holds the Syrian crisis would have been prevented if only Obama had followed the neocons’ 2011 prescription of another U.S. intervention to force another “regime change.” Yet, the far more likely outcome would have been either another indefinite and bloody U.S. military occupation or the black flag of Islamic terrorism flying over Damascus.
Another villain who emerged from the 2013 failure to bomb Syria was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who infuriated the neocons by his work with Obama on Syria’s surrender of its chemical weapons and who further annoyed the neocons by helping to get the Iranians to negotiate seriously on constraining their nuclear program. Despite the “regime change” disasters in Iraq and Libya, the neocons wanted to wave the “regime change” wand again over Syria and Iran.
Putin got his comeuppance when U.S. neocons, including National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate a “regime change” in Ukraine on February 22, 2014, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and putting in a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border.
As thrilled as the neocons were with their “victory” in Kiev and their success in demonizing Putin in the mainstream U.S. news media, Ukraine followed the now-predictable post-regime-change descent into a vicious civil war. Western Ukrainians waged a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the U.S.-backed coup.
Thousands of Ukrainians died and millions were displaced as Ukraine’s national economy teetered toward collapse. Yet the neocons and their liberal-hawk friends again showed their propaganda skills by pinning the blame for everything on “Russian aggression” and Putin.
Though Obama was apparently caught off-guard by the Ukrainian “regime change,” he soon joined in denouncing Putin and Russia. The European Union also got behind U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia despite the harm those sanctions also inflicted on Europe’s already shaky economy. Europe’s stability is now under additional strain because of the flows of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East.
So, we can now look at the consequences and costs of the past dozen years under the spell of neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” strategies. According to many estimates, the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Libya has exceeded one million, with several million more refugees flooding into — and stretching the resources of — fragile Mideast countries.
Hundreds of thousands other refugees and migrants have fled to Europe, putting major strains on the continent’s social structures, which were already stressed by the severe recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street crash. Even without the refugee crisis, Greece and other southern European countries would be struggling to meet their citizens’ needs.
Stepping back for a moment and assessing the full impact of neoconservative policies, you might be amazed at how widely they have spread chaos across a large swath of the globe. Who would have thought that the neocons would have succeeded in destabilizing not only the Mideast but Europe as well?
And, as Europe struggles, the export markets of China are squeezed, spreading economic instability to that crucial economy and, with its market shocks, the reverberations are rumbling back to the United States too.
We now see the human tragedies of neocon/liberal-hawk ideologies captured in the suffering of the Syrians and other refugees flooding Europe and the death of children drowning as their desperate families flee the chaos created by “regime change.” But will the neocon/liberal-hawk grip on Washington finally be broken? Will a debate even be allowed about the dangers of “regime change” prescriptions in the future?
Not if the likes of the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt have anything to say about it. The truth is that Hiatt and other neocons retain their dominance of the mainstream U.S. news media, so all that one can expect from the various mainstream outlets is more neocon propaganda, blaming the chaos not on their policy of “regime change” but on the failure to undertake even more “regime change.”
The one hope is that many Americans will not be fooled this time and that a belated “realism” will finally return to U.S. geopolitical strategies that will look for obtainable compromises to restore some political order to places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine. Rather than more and more tough-guy/gal confrontations, maybe there will finally be some serious efforts at reconciliation.
But the other reality is that the interventionist forces have rooted themselves deeply in official Washington, inside NATO, within the mainstream news media and even in European institutions. It will not be easy to rid the world of the grave dangers created by neocon policies.
This article was excerpted from a longer one that originally appeared at consortiumnews.com.
Syrian Refugees Trek Across Wary Continent
By Shawn Carrié