Point of View Columns

Slip Sliding into Syria

One definition of insanity describes recurrent behavior that always has negative results but persisting in that behavior anyway. Modern history has shown that American military intervention rarely yields positive results but we still hear the calls to battle from armchair hawks resting safely in their ergonomically designed chairs. And now the call for war involves Syria.

The current situation in Syria is certainly dire and horrific. It is estimated that in the past two years over 90,000 Syrians have died in the constant clashes between insurgent forces and the Syrian government. Indeed the Syrian government has unleashed everything from chemical weapons to jet and missile attacks on its own people.

By any definition the Assad regime in Syria has lost all legitimacy and should not continue to maintain power. And that, of course, is what the civil war in that country is all about. And where the bad guys are so impossibly bad it is easy to see how the opposition can be seen as the good guys, the noble warriors for peace and liberty – freedom fighters if you will.

But, as Marvin Gaye once said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear”. It turns out that some of the Syrian “freedom fighters” have serious and credible links to al Qaeda. Certainly a significant number of the insurgents hold a vision of radical Islamic Syria, ruled by Sharia law and certainly not inclined to be friendly to the United States and very likely to be inclined to be friendly with stated enemies of this country.

Syria is very complicated and we now see the Obama Administration traveling down the same slippery road that resulted in bloody quagmires in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The goal of regime change that removes the Assad regime seems like a good one but only if one has a clear picture of what the successor regime is going to be like.

The Bush-Cheney cabal told the American people that the regime of Saddam Hussein was evil and that regime change was the only answer. In point of the fact, the only answer that the American people received was soaked in the blood of thousands of killed and wounded American troops and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. The only answer the American people received came at a price of close to one trillion dollars and this answer has reduced a major country in the Middle East into a chaotic black hole.

A quarter of a century ago the Reagan Administration of Iran-Contra infamy told the American people that the opposition to the Russian occupation in Afghanistan were freedom fighters and deserved the military support of the United States. Yet one of those “freedom fighters” turned out to be none other than Osama bin Laden who personally orchestrated the murder of thousands of Americans.

Now we are seeing increasing pressure being put upon President Obama to “do something” even though “something” might end up being yet another disastrous misadventure for this country. Even a “no-fly” zone requires more than jet planes, it also requires pilots and at some point American military personnel will be in harm’s way resulting in a sadly familiar automatic escalation of violence and further military involvement.

And all along there is no clear vision as to what the desired outcome in Syria would be, only that there is some kind of humanitarian mandate that the United States must follow because innocent people are being killed. But innocent people are also being killed in Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chechnya to name just a few killing fields around the world.

The notion that the United States should take the leadership role in ridding this planet of the violent impulses that are as old as humanity itself can only lead to disastrous results. The supporters of armed intervention in Syria will not be making any personal sacrifices but the soldiers that will be killed, and their families will certainly pay the price.

And the American people will certainly pay the price for yet another war of choice with no exit strategy – yet another war without end.



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