The U.S. needs to stop with the moral superiority over Russia

In the last few months the civil war in Syria has become a diplomatic battle between Russia and the United States. This fight has focused around Russia’s arms sales to the Assad regime. Listening to American officials and the western media, a narrative has unfolded that pits the poor Syrian rebels against the evil Assad government; battling with little more than assault rifles and RPG’s against the superior military might of Russian made arms. Yet this narrative is both false and highly hypocritical.

There is no doubt that Russia is selling arms to the Assad regime. Both nations have had a long term deal with regards to arms trading stemming all the way back to the 1950’s. In the 1990’s Hafez al Assad relied heavily on Russian arms sales to suppress the Islamist uprising with in Syria. The problem with this narrative is that it is only one half of the story, and serves as a justification for neo-cons and liberal interventionists to push us into war with yet another Muslim nation.

Let us first examine a few facts that the West seems to forget when talking about the crisis in Syria. The U.S. is the single biggest arms dealer in the world, period. At a June 14th news conference Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro boasted that, “Despite the global economic strain, demand for U.S. defence products and services is stronger than ever.” Shapiro confirmed that in this fiscal year alone government to government arms sales have exceeded 50 billion dollars. It is worth noting that between 1950-1990, Russian arms sales to Syria totaled just 34 billion dollars. It is important to note that the top ten buyers of U.S. weapons in this fiscal year, which won’t end until September, are all gross human rights abusers. These ten reputable American allies include Honduras, the U.A.E, Algeria, Peru, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, and Djibouti. All of these nations are guilty in one form or another of suppressing civil society, freedom of speech and assembly; use of violence against religious and ethnic minorities; forced disappearance and extra judicial killings; threat of rape; and in the case is Israel, the 45 year occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. And don’t forget that peace loving America has not stopped the 1 billion dollar military aid program to Egypt. A billion dollar program to a military junta that has dissolved parliament, usurped power from the presidency, and is most likely working towards ensuring that Mubarak’s crony Shafik will be president. And yet, Russia is the evil actor in this perverse geopolitical drama.

The second part of this hypocritical morality lesson is the underreported and ignored fact that the United States is funneling weapons into Syria. Just the other day the NYT reported that the CIA was operating in Turkey; vetting various rebel groups to determine
who should receive arms. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also guilty of sending arms into Syria. These two Gulf nations are simply a front for U.S. arms trafficking into Syria. This allows the U.S. plausible deniability that they are in providing weapons to rebel groups that may in fact be hostile to America. How is this any different from what Russia is doing?

This post is not meant to be an endorsement of Russian arms sales to Syria. Assad is no doubt an evil man guilty of killing his own people. Russia is certainty guilty of helping to slaughter Syrian people. But, this does not mean that America is good. America is culpable of suppressing human rights and slaughtering people around the world. America instead views helping their allies as somehow different.

Russia did not start arming Shia protesters in Bahrain while the U.S. backed government tortured and killed hundreds if not thousands. Bahrain is in America’s sphere of influence and was seen as out of bounds. In general Russia never calls out America for empowering their corrupt allies. Russia fully understands that in the game of geopolitics no power is good or bad. World powers do whatever they believe is in the national interest of their nation. Syria represents Russia’s last sphere of influence in the Middle East. If arming the Assad regime is deemed necessary to Russia’s national interest then they will arm them. Conversely, American elites believe that regime change in Syria and weakening Iran is in their interest. President Obama and Secretary Clinton care as much about the Syrian people as President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavarov do. Not at all.

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