Voltaire and Rousseau

As in a Greek tragedy, Westerners who announced they would bomb Syria within the hour have done nothing but tear each other apart. "Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad," said Euripides.

On one side, the leaders of the permanent member states of the Security Council, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Francois Hollande; on the other, their peoples. On the one hand, hubris (ὕβρις), the excesses of the last great colonial powers, on the other, the Light of Reason. Facing them, the Syrians, quiet and enduring, and their allies, Russians and Iranians, on watch.

The piece being played is not just another episode of world domination, but is a pivotal moment in that history has not known since 1956 and the victory of Nasser at the Suez Canal . At the time, the United Kingdom, France and Israel had to give up their colonial dream. Certainly, there were still the wars in Algeria, Vietnam and the end of apartheid in South Africa, but the momentum placing the West at the head of the world had collapsed.

This dream, however, was revived by George W. Bush’s conquest of Iraq. Seeing their economies falter and believing in the imminent disappearance of crude oil (according to the theory of "peak oil"), U.S. multinationals used Allied armies to re-colonize the East. During one year, a private company, the Coalition Provisional Authority, ruled and plundered Iraq. This dream was to continue in Libya, Syria and Lebanon, then Somalia and Sudan, before culminating in Iran, according to the revelations of General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO.

However, the Iraqi experience will have shown that even after years of war against Iran and years of sanctions both draining the lifeblood of a nation, it is not possible to colonize an educated people. The difference in status between the occidental powers knowing to read and write and mastering gunpowder, and the rest of the world has disappeared. And even the most ignorant people watch television and think about international relations.

This paradigm has a corollary: the Western peoples are not bloodthirsty. Sure of their superiority they set out to assault the world and came back bruised. Today, they refuse to reembark upon this criminal adventure for the sole benefit of their captains of industry. This is the meaning of the vote in the House of Commons rejecting a motion to attack Syria submitted by David Cameron.

Do the people have a clear awareness of their actions? Certainly not. Rare are the Westerners, Europeans and North Americans who have figured out how NATO caused the secession of Benghazi, making it pass for a revolution against Muammar el- Qaddafi, before crushing the country under a deluge of bombs. Rare are those who recognized the green, white and black flag of the Free Syrian Army as that of the French colonization. Yet everyone knows that this is what it is.

The communication from Downing Street and the White House is stupefyingly arrogant. In their note on the legality of the war, the services of the British Prime Minister stressed that the United Kingdom can intervene outside of a mandate from the Security Council to prevent the commission of a crime, provided that this intervention be directed exclusively towards this goal and be proportional to the threat. But how can we claim to prevent an army’s use of chemical weapons by bombing their country?

The White House, for its part, issued a memorandum from its intelligence services assuring they have "certainty" of the use of chemical weapons by Syria. Was it necessary to spend more than 50 billion dollars a year to give birth to a conspiracy theory devoid of the slightest tangible evidence? In 2001 and 2003, accusation was law. Colin Powell could attack Afghanistan by promising to provide further evidence of the involvement of the Taliban in the attacks of September 11, and never transmit it to the Security Council. He could have it listen to false telephone interceptions and brandish a vial of fake anthrax before razing Iraq and apologizing for his lies. But the West today faces the contradictions between supporters of colonization and the Enlightenment .

What is playing out in Syria is really the future of the world. The leaders of Western states, ever in pursuit of profit and power, are no longer able to exploit their people and are turning their ambitions outward. They are disowned by the representatives of their people. The vote of the British would no doubt also be that of the French, if the National Assembly was called upon to decide, and will perhaps be that of the United States, when Congress is consulted.

Meanwhile, rather than resolving their internal economic problems, Washington, London and Paris rivalize with bombastic and bellicose statements, devouring each other on the ruins of their extinguished glories.

Roger Lagassé