Do we really want to be in on the kill in Syria?

You can certainly say that Thomas Barnett’s Time Magazine blog post on Syria is disgusting.

What you can’t say is that his analysis is unintelligent. It may be flawed (from an imperial perspective) a bit too simplistic, but not wildly off the mark. The fact that Barnett’s outburst can appear in a magazine like Time with a mass audience tells us plenty about the West’s tolerance for mass murder. This isn’t an academic mouthing off in an obscure journal.

I should mention that Barnett has a more impressive CV than many corporate pundits. According to Time, Barnett has "has worked in US national security circles since the end of the Cold War, starting first with the Department of Navy's premier think tank, the Center for Naval Analyses". He has a Phd from Harvard in Poitical science..

Barnett wrote in his Time magazine blog

We should press the fight and speed the killing in Syria, not because it’s right or because we’re preventing anything.
We should do it because the opportunity has presented itself and we can.
The rest is just op-ed BS….
We all know Assad is going down.  Let’s be in on the kill.


Barnett ridicules op-eds that talk of intervention to “prevent” killing.   The problem that he astutely identifies is that

when the intervention does comes and it — gasp! — leads to more death and destruction.”  

How much simpler if imperial goals are clearly and honestly identified. Did “we” or did “we” not kill the enemy?  Why muddle the assessment with a count of dead foreign bodies before and after the kill?

Did “we” get Saddam Hussein? Yes.
Did “we” get Gaddafi? Yes.
Did “we” get Bin Laden? Yes.

Barnett would have to rate Western “intervention” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as successful by his suggested metric. That isn’t far off what is actually used. It’s true that Iraq is not generally regarded as a success. Imperialists of various stripes routinely whine, as they did about Vietnam, that it has soured the public to the idea of humanitarian war.

However, tolerance for the murder of foreigners is so deeply ingrained in the West that about million Iraqis had to be killed for that “intervention” to be viewed negatively. It was a catastrophe beyond the capacity of the corporate press to bury – especially since it also cost the lives of thousands of US soldiers and trillions in US taxpayer dollars.

Libya, on the other hand, with only tens of thousands of Libyans killed after the “intervention”, can be sold as a success. The costs to the US and its important (rich) allies were negligible by any measure.

Afghanistan might be debated. The “kill” was eventually achieved but the cost in US lives and money was not negligible.

Barnett might have been even blunter in some ways. He refers to Assad as “evil” but not Obama who has embraced the indiscriminate slaughter of military aged men in foreign countries (labeled “militants” by that exact criteria) as a wonderful foreign policy tool.[1]  “Evil” is also not a term Barnett applies to the brutal governments in Saudi Arabia and Qatar whom he encourages Obama to provide with “what they want” to kill Assad.

Barnett could have explicitly stated that “evil” is, by definition, whoever the US targets for a kill. Whoever helps out with the kill is not “evil”, nor, he might have added, “dangerous” – another term frequently used by humanitarian warriors.

Why are the ravings of a pundit like Barnett worth contemplating by people repulsed by him?

Repulsive or not, he identifies how any military intervention will actually be evaluated in the West (barring major changes in the Western media). Catastrophic results for the locals in foreign lands will be easily ignored provided costs to the US can be kept low. It is the people with Barnett’s general mindset (though not his honesty) who dominate policy and public debate in the West. Leftists tempted to back any kind of western military intervention in Syria  should bear that in mind – and also the way Barnett openly salivates over the prospect of future kills:

“Iran will lose big-time — yet again in this Sunni-empowering Arab Spring. And yeah, Lebanon will be next up as a result.”


A good kill (sorry “intervention”) is always one that whets the appetite for more. Perhaps Barnett will beat everyone over the head with that in a future blog post.
 [1] Glenn Greenwald: "MIlitants": media propaganda

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