CJ Polychroniou: US military interventions in the 21st century (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) have proven totally disastrous, yet the terms of the intervention debate have yet to be redrawn among Washington's warmakers. What's the explanation for this?Apparently, when all you have is an "anti-imperialist" outlook, everything looks like Afghanistan and Iraq. "Afghanistan and Iraq" meaning here the US invasions and occupations of those two countries that followed in quick succession after 9/11/2001 and lasted the better part of a decade. These US military operations involved large numbers of US combat forces on the ground, backed by US air and sea power. They were close enough in scope and purpose to other aggressive military campaigns conducted by US imperialism in the recent past, most notably in Vietnam, that a clear pattern could be seen. Also, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US went in with plans to defeat the current government and replace it with a new one. The goal of "regime change" was stated at the outset and carried out by US boots on the ground. There were popular anti-government movements in both of those countries but they had little influence on the events which transpired and zero influence over the US timetable.
Noam Chomsky: In part the old cliché: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The comparative advantage of the US is in military force. When one form of intervention fails, doctrine and practice can be revised with new technologies, devices, etc.
Now, if I may be allowed to indulge in an old cliché myself, let me just say that Libya and Syria are horses of a different color as compared to Afghanistan and Iraq. In both of those countries we saw popular movements that emerged from the region wide social rising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring. Those movements followed very parallel tracks in Libya and Syria. They started not a month apart. They started by peacefully calling for more democracy and began demanding an end to the regime and began exercising their right to self-defense after they were met by armed violence from the state. In both Libya and Syria, the demands for "regime change," and the real force propelling that demand forward have come from the people of those two countries. The role of "US military intervention," whether it meant flying less that its share of NATO combat missions over Libya or attempting to "regulate" the flow of weapons to Syrian opposition forces, has clearly not been the US Marines wading onto the beaches type of past conflicts.
These important difference are rendered invisible when viewed through the "anti-imperialist" mindset of people like Polychroniou and Chomsky. To them, all attempts at "regime change," especially in that part of the world, are like in Afghanistan and Iraq, the results of US military intervention. Why else would they list these four countries together with only commas to separate them? But then to follow that up with an old cliché about how having a narrow point of view can distort one's outlook and not see the irony? I fear the "anti-imperialists" will not soon see the humor of their ways.