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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: May, 2012
By: Editorial


The turn of events in Syria indicates that the world is in the process of returning to Great Power politics.

Nothing other than Great Power politics is possible, unless the Great Powers submit themselves to some kind of world body which is independent of them.  The United Nations is not a body of that kind, and was not intended to be.  Its creators, essentially the Powers that defeated Nazi Germany, Russia and America, exempted themselves from UN authority at the outset. Each remained absolutely sovereign, with a Veto power which prevented the UN from attempting to interfere in their affairs, or even criticise them. 

But twenty-two years ago the Soviet system collapsed and America became the only Great Power. By means of the moral influence of brute force—and by arm-twisting when moral influence was not sufficient—it ran the world, using the UN as its instrument.  Russia was in disarray.  The actual Chinese Government had been excluded from the UN for a quarter of a century after the American client Government of Chiang Kai Shek was defeated by the Communist Party in civil war.  Chiang retreated to the island of Formosa (Taiwan) with a remnant of his Kuomintang movement, was protected there by the US Navy, and the US recognised his Government in Taiwan as the legitimate sovereign power over the Chinese mainland, and Vetoed attempts by the actual Chinese Government to take the seat on the Security Council.

China had no experience at operating Great Power politics in the UN Security Council—the only part that matters‚ and Russia under Gorbachev forgot how to do it.  But Russia is now remembering, and China is learning.  

On Libya last year they agreed to what seemed a motion of restricting use of the Libyan air force against the insurrection, only to see it 'interpreted' as authority to destroy the Libyan State by bombing.  When a 'moderate' resolution was sought on Syria this year, they would not allow it.  The US, UK and France declared that they were "the international community", but Russia and China showed them that they weren't.  Western intervention to destroy the Syrian State under cover of a perversely-interpreted UN resolution was prevented.

A truce was brokered to allow negotiations between Government and opposition groups in Syria to take place.  Although the aim of the US etc. was to destroy the Syrian State, they felt obliged to agree to this, but from the start their object was to prevent it from actually happening.  On the first morning of the truce, St. Fergal Keane of the BBC pronounced that, if the truce did not take the form of the Syrian Government allowing the "demonstrations" against it to resume without hindrance, then it would be spurious.  This was the US/UK line, but so far it hasn't played well.

That the US objective is not negotiated peace consolidated by reform within the Syrian State, but the destruction of the Syrian State, is not subject to reasonable doubt.  And the means for destroying the State is religious warfare.  It has been attempted by the US and Saudi Arabia to shape the Sunni population in Syria into a battering ram which, backed by active Western support, will destroy the regime.  And the EU, in the middle of the crisis it has brought about for itself, supports the destructive policy on Syria.

None of this is new.  What is new is that Russia and China are ending Single Power dominance of world affairs, and are restoring the old-fashioned Great Power politics which in bygone times, before the era of universalist illusion, sometimes maintained peace in much of the world for long periods of time.

That there is a "Syrian people", kept down by the regime and capable of establishing orderly government if only the regime is destroyed, is not even believed by those who assert it.  The US object is merely to have no stable states in the Middle East which are not its client states, and to uphold the dominance of its major client state, the Saudi theocracy, in order to keep the others in line.

In the heat of this conflict Turkey seems to have given up its ambition to operate an independent foreign policy and act as a benevolent intermediary in disputes, and to have become a partisan in the attempt to sweep aside the Syrian State by means of US/Saudi-backed religious war.