Who Will We Go To War With? (Hint: Syria, Probably)

With a stripped State Department, a turbocharged military budget and a blustering egomaniac who can’t even get along with our allies, a full-scale official armed conflict between America and one or more countries is inevitable.

War is a force that gives us meaning (at least, that’s the thesis of Chris Hedges’ book of the same name) and history is littered with affirmative case studies. Politically, warfare can rally the populace around an unpopular leader and chill criticism of their actions. Practically, many of the structures of our society are designed to maintain perpetual state violence.

Following Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed somewhere around 85 people (not only anti-Assad combatants but at least 20 children), the Trump administration is expressing growing bellicosity towards his regime. The United States’ military involvement in Syria has just escalated dramatically:

“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Mr. Trump said in remarks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

Mr. Trump — who was accompanied by senior advisers, including Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist; Reince Priebus, his chief of staff; his daughter Ivanka Trump; and others — said his decision had been prompted in part by what he called the failures by the world community to respond effectively to the Syrian civil war.

Coming from the same man who made forestalling the arrival of Syrian refuges a major focus of his fledgling presidency, this rhetoric is particularly hard to swallow. But in the 21st century, deploying the language of humanitarianism is prerequisite to justifying forced regime change. To be sure, Assad is a monster, but an individual’s monstrosity is rarely the main impetus for a push to war.

(Year Zero/Day Seventy-Seven)