The archetypically American retort of “whaddya gonna do about it” is an arrogant response to foreign policy criticism but it nevertheless serves a useful relevance in bluntly debunking Alt-Media fantasies and crudely posing Neo-Realist questions that the US’ adversaries are inevitably forced to answer.
Most people who have any experience interacting with others through social media have probably come across an American whose eventual reply to foreign policy criticism is the arrogant retort of “whaddya gonna do about it?”, immediately putting the other person on the defensive and challenging them to consider what course of action the US’ adversaries could realistically undertake in response.
This bluntness is almost always perceived as rude and aggressive, thereby quickly ending the conversation soon thereafter, but the “inconvenient fact” of the matter is that this insensitive reply is actually quite relevant if one takes the time to think about it.
People have a predisposition to include morals, ethics, and principles into their foreign policy discourse, reverting to the natural tendency that one has in trying to make the world a “better place”, but this habit has the unwitting effect of sometimes clouding their judgement in a cloud of “wishful thinking” and preventing them from objectively perceiving the world as it actually is.
The provocative question of “whaddya gonna do about it?” forces one to sober up from their emotional delusions and move beyond the rhetorical polemics that they had previously relied upon in prevaricating from the issue at hand, evolving past the sloganeering of “America is evil!” and “the US is breaking international law!” to actually offer up constructive solutions for countering it.
Far too often people want to focus on the knee-jerk impulse to condemn American foreign policy, and while there’s certainly a time and place for that, it’s irrelevant whenever someone is confronted with the question of “whaddya gonna do about it”, since it’s the answer to that boastful remark that provides others with list of prospective policy options.
Take for example the War on Syria – the US has reportedly set up approximately 10 bases in the energy- and agriculturally-rich Kurdish-occupied one-third of northeastern Syria, and Turkey just began “Operation Olive Branch” in an attempt to flush the PKK-affiliated PYD-YPG Syrian Kurds out of the mountainous northwestern corner of Afrin.
Both of these events have caused patriotic Syrians and their international supporters to seethe with rage over what foreign and traitorous forces are doing to their country, but denouncing these actions in the social and traditional media does nothing at all to stop them in real life, since the real question ultimately comes down to “whaddya gonna do about it?”
To address these two interrelated instances separately for the moment, there is no way that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) can expel the US from northeastern Syria, especially following the presumed “gentlemen’s” agreement” that the US and Moscow reached over the de-facto “deconfliction line” along the Euphrates River, which in and of itself sets the country up for an inevitable “decentralization” modelled off of the 2016 Russian-written “draft constitution” for Syria and perhaps even as far as its “democratic partitioning” via “federalization”.
This is the bitter reality that’s much too “politically incorrect” for many people to publicly recognize, not least because it contradicts President Assad’s promise to liberate “every square inch” of Syria, but refusing to acknowledge this objective state of affairs whereby the US is occupying the most economically valuable one-third of the country’s real estate and has proven its willingness to use disproportionate force to enforce it is nonsensical.
Russia will not risk sparking World War III by militarily evicting the Americans from “Rojava”, and to the contrary, it cynically stands to benefit by “balancing” between all internal and external parties to the War on Syria in order to enhance its regional influence, thus shattering another Alt-Media dogma that Moscow would supposedly never cut a pragmatic deal with Washington and is instead solely dedicated to stopping the US at all costs.
If the US’ nuclear equal of Russia isn’t going to do anything about the American occupation of Northeastern Syria, then comparatively much weaker and war-weary Syria certainly isn’t going to either, and this uncomfortable truth is only revealed through the inductive reasoning inherent to answering the question of “whaddya gonna do about it?”
The same logic applies to the issue of Turkey’s conventional military presence in Northern Syria – just like the Russians turned a blind eye to “Operation Euphrates Shield” in summer 2016, so too have they been doing the same with “Operation Olive Branch” over the past week, and both campaigns could arguably be said to have been indirectly coordinated with Damascus via Moscow’s mediating efforts despite the “face-saving” domestic political reasons why Syria so loudly condemned Turkey’s moves and accused it of “violating international law”.
As proof of this in the present day, Syria threatened to shoot down Turkish jets if they dared to bomb Afrin, though nearly a week after Ankara’s campaign began, Damascus has yet to fire a single shot in its direction, though it’s reportedly allowing YPG fighters to transit through the liberated territories in order to fight against the Turks and have its two enemies kill one another to Syria’s cynical gain.
That’s literally all that Syria can do about this even if it’s unhappy with the speculative “deal” that Russia might have made with Turkey, to say nothing of its inability to alter the on-the-ground situation stemming from the “gentlemen’s agreement” that Moscow may have clinched with Washington over the Euphrates River “deconfliction line” and the possible implementation of a US-administered “de-escalation” zone in the Northeast prior to the region’s “decentralization”/”federalization”.
The cold reality described above is indicative of the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” paradigm that Russia is apparently applying as part of its 21st-century geostrategy, whereby Great Powers such as itself prioritize relations with their similarly sized peers like the US and Turkey at the perceived expense of their smaller- and medium-sized partners such as Syria in pursuit of larger win-win objectives like multipolarity, and deluding oneself with the notion that this Neo-Realist worldview isn’t in play will only lead to the creation of false expectations that will sooner or later be crushed by reality.
This is important for more than rhetorical reasons too because the foreign exploitation of the masses’ “wishful thinking” has already been seen to be behind the recent unrest in Iran, seeing as how many people had fantastical hopes that the 2015 nuclear deal would lead to an economic bonanza but then took the streets nearly two and a half years later to express their frustrations after it became obvious that no such dividends would be forthcoming.
The weaponization of “wishful thinking” could also happen in Syria and wherever else the US is targeting if Alt-Media voices inadvertently give hope to false expectations premised on rhetorical polemics and the refusal to recognize the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” paradigm for the International Relations reality that it is, however much this may contradict one’s ideological dogma to believe the opposite.
At the end of the day, answering the arrogant American retort of “whaddya gonna do about it?” serves to compel foreign policy critics to think deeply about the most realistic military and diplomatic strategies that the targeted state could employ in preemptively safeguarding against the aggressive actions that the US is directly or indirectly partaking in and/or the scenarios that it’s poised to advance, thereby turning an otherwise stereotypically trolling remark into the motivation for crafting constructive solutions and enlightening the public about “politically inconvenient” but objective realities.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.