Monday, June 4

The politics of destruction applied to foreign relations. Has this led to Armageddon in Syria?

The American government's justifications for actions in Syria represent an existential crisis for the United States, although one does need to pay close attention to the many aspects of the Syrian War to understand this. If the following passage is any guide, more American commentators might be getting ready to acknowledge there is such a crisis:
While some hawkish American pundits profess that unilateral U.S. intervention is necessary for Syrian peace and stability, such a policy bluntly contravenes the UN Charter and multilateral agreements, many of which the United States played a leading role to establish. By violating the very principles it sought to underpin international cooperation, the United States loses global trust ... (1) 
That's not the half of it. The other half is what happens when a government starts down the road of using human values to justify its invasion of another country.  

An illustration of what can happen is when a German interviewer told Saudi Arabia's foreign minister that the kingdom had a bad record on human rights. Adel al-Jubeir retorted that Saudis didn't criticize Western values and so Westerners shouldn't criticize Saudi values. If the German had chosen to argue that Western values were better than Saudi values, Jubeir could've brought up the First World War.

So if one's values are merely relative to the other person's, then what? Well, the fallback is to demonize the offender to the point where no one can possibly argue that he's committed a crime against humanity. Here in America we call this demonization process the politics of destruction or negative political campaigning. 

The drawback is that in answer the offender calls you a demon, then you call him a double demon, and this goes on until finally somebody says, 'Heck, let's just tell a whopper. It's for a good cause.'  

The problem with telling big lies for a good cause is that the Monkey See Monkey Do syndrome takes over. Pretty soon others are telling whoppers to defend themselves against your whopper, then you have to keep telling whoppers, and so it goes.

The problem here is that the more a person lies, the harder it is for him to distinguish between truth and lying. This leads to another problem:

Those who find it hard to distinguish truth have made a kind of reality for themselves that masks what is actually happening right before their eyes. Such people have quite literally lied themselves into mental blindness.

But when many people communicate their mental blindness to many others and do so on a global scale, what's been happening in Syria can be one result.
Should Islamic State intone, 'We told you so' -- I have no idea whether all this signals that Syria is the launching ground for Armageddon. But I will dare to point out that repeatedly breaking one of the Biblical Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" leads to psycho-epistemological chaos.

When the chaos blinds millions of minds to the simplest of truths, I can recall no situation that better illustrates the worst consequences of lying to achieve a vaunted good end.  

1) China Is Using Syria's Peace Process for Its Own Ends; Logan Pauley, May 31, 2018, The National Interest


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