With the threat of US military strikes against Syria looming on the horizon, I interviewed an American foreign policy expert to understand the complex issues involved.
Me: Sir, what exactly is happening in Syria?
Expert: A ruthless dictator called Assad has been killing his own people.
Me: So the US wants to stop the butchering. Splendid.
Expert: No, no, butchering is fine. It’s the gassing we object to.
Expert: See, it’s ok if they machine-gunned each other. They could also blow people up, go in for mass rapes, burn folks up by firebombing. I mean, Assad had such a wide range of choices. Why does he have to go and use chemical weapons, especially when Obama warned him not to? It’s simply not done.
Me: Absolutely. Not the gentlemanly thing to do. Like using napalm, I guess.
Expert: No, napalm is perfectly all right. We used tonnes of it in Vietnam. All it does is stick to the skin and burn, apart from releasing huge amounts of carbon monoxide, so people get both suffocated and charred. What you’re thinking of is Agent Orange, which resulted in disabilities for around a million Vietnamese. But that’s no problem, we’ve given Vietnam a few million dollars since.
Me: Maybe Assad should give some cash to the folks he gassed?
Expert: Are you mad? Gassing is a war crime now.
Me: Excellent. Incidentally, who are the democratic heroes fighting against Assad?
Expert: There’s the Syrian Islamic Front, the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front…
Me: You said that twice.
Expert: No, they’re different. Then there’s Al-Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army, Hamas, the Moslem Brotherhood, the Kurds, Druze and Turkmen ethnic paramilitaries, the Ahrar al-sham, the al-Islam Brigade, the…..
Me: Awesome. But once Assad goes, they’ll all get together, right?
Expert: Of course, look at Libya. They used to have 300 militias, I’m told it’s down to 200 now.
Me: Saddam too had chemical weapons, didn’t he?
Expert: That’s unimportant. The main thing is Iraq is a free country now. People even have the freedom to explode bombs there practically every day.
Me: Yes, it’s wonderful to get rid of autocrats. Freeing the Saudi people must be on top of the US agenda?
Expert: Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, a bit like the UK.
Me: Sorry. Well, thankfully in Egypt they have an Arab Spring.
Expert: It’s more like an Arab autumn now.
Me: At least it’s a change of weather. But the US will do this democratically, right, through the United Nations?
Expert: The UN is obsolete. But we’ll consult the international community.
Me: Including us?
Expert: India? India doesn’t belong to the international community. Nor do Russia or China. The French and Turks do.
Me: Deservedly so. Anyway, I hope the US troops win.
Expert: Send troops into that quagmire? Don’t be silly. A few missiles will be fine.
Me: Will that get rid of Assad?
Expert: That is irrelevant. The strike will restore the credibility of the international community.
Me: And killing folks by missiles is allowed?
Expert: Of course.
Me: Cool. Yay, let’s push those buttons.
Manas Chakravarty is consulting editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal