In 1804 when the Duke of Enghien was executed by Napoleon, the Bonapartist minister of police Joseph Fouché said of the incident, “It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder”.
This can be accurately applied to the US airstrike against the Syrian Arab Army which resulted in the death of 80 soldiers who were making strong gains against ISIS. Alexander Mercouris has written a piece with in depth analysis of the military and geopolitical significance of this event, and it is highly significant indeed.
But the timing of the event, the political response, the way in which the US has disregarded the UN as a serious forum, and the uncertainty over whether the crime was an intentional or unintentional blunder, cannot be ignored.
The Russian Foreign Ministry have said quite frankly that the US airstrike has been an aid to ISIS. This is material fact and will be recorded in the annals of military history.
Whilst Obama has apologised for the attack, his lacklustre ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power (oh what an ironic name) scoffed at Russia’s convening of an emergency session of the Security Council.
A visibly shocked Vitaly Churkin reported that when his US counterpart greeted him, she told him that ‘she was not interested’ in what he had to say.
This in terms of diplomatic rhetoric is a new low even for an Obama administration staffed full of people who understand too little about the world to be in the diplomatic sector in the first place.
But more than just an insult to Russia, it is an insult to the United Nations which ought to be a forum of respectful if not tense discussions even in times of crisis. Once again Obama’s men and women at the UN, treat the organisation like an inconvenient wart on the face of international diplomacy rather than a vital organ for conducting the processes of peace.
A blunder of this magnitude requires more than a ‘sorry’ from Obama. It requires what Vitaly Churkin asked, a full inquiry into the matter.
If the event was an accident, it vindicates Donald Trump who has criticised poor leadership and organisation within the US military. If it was intentional it was far worse, a concerted attempt to weaken the power and morale of Syrian forces working to defeat ISIS.
This comes days after US special forces were chased out of Syria by the so called ‘Free Syrian Army’.
If it was not accident, then it is a continuing salvo in the formally undeclared but de facto continuing war that the US and other foreign forces including Turkey, France, Britain and the Gulf dictatorships have declared against Syria.
They have no right to be in Syria. They have not been invited there. Unless one recognises the Islamic State as a state, which no one in the world has or likely ever will, then the territory in question is the legitimate territory of Damascus.
It seems that the Western slogan ‘territorial integrity’ only applies to places where people democratically and peacefully exercise the right to self-determination, rather than in places where the term might carry some weight – when a sovereign state is being ripped to shreds by foreign adversaries and terrorists.
Finally, the timing is odd. The attack took places hours before polling stations opened in Russia’s State Duma and regional elections.
In general, few events which occur in such close proximity to the beginning of polling have an impact on the nature of an election. But even so, the timing remains suspicious. The US may be trying to lure Russia into a long war, thus disrupting political stability in Russia itself.
But this strategy is likely to fail as Russia’s role in Syria has been to aid an ally in a time of profound crisis, rather than to dig in for the long term. Russia does not want that and nor does Syria.
America cannot excuse the events with the term ‘friendly fire’ as they have done with similar blunders in the past, whether they are bombing allied UK troops or civilian wedding celebrations.
Obama has made it clear that he does not view Assad as a friend, although Donald Trump has implied that this attitude is misguided.
Obama has therefore bombed a declared enemy, but is left internationally embarrassed as he has publicly aided ISIS and infuriated Russia, with whom the US has just brokered a Syrian ceasefire deal.
The ceasefire is now well and truly dead. It has been violated by one of its authors.