President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit this week to discuss many things, but the biggest topic appeared to be their differences over Syria. One look at a picture of their meeting tells you how poorly it went.
Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for 2 years. The rebels were a late bloom of the Arab Spring -- beginning while the Western world was occupied with Libya.
President Obama has largely avoided getting involved but recently cited reports of chemical weapon usage and declared that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. Obama backed himself into the same corner when he said Qaddafi must go last year.
Furthermore, the UK and France forced the White House to openly agree to supply arms to the rebels. Our allies were prompted by Iran's announcement that it was sending 4,000 troops to help Assad and that Russia was sending more anti-aircraft defenses and small arms to aid Assad's forces.
Cold Warriors like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) want to jump into Syria and fight another US-Russian proxy war (see Vietnam).
Humanitarian interventionists, represented by recently appointed UN Ambassador Samantha Power, decry the loss of innocent life and demand involvement to prevent another mass genocide like Rwanda (recent estimates put the death toll over 93,000 so far).
Neo-cons still want to spread democracy and think the rebels are the best chance for a secular, peace-loving democracy in Damascus, as well as a means to weaken Iran and create a bulwark around the mullahs (see Iraq and Afghanistan).
They are all wrong. In this case, President Obama was absolutely correct in trying to stay out of another Middle East quagmire. Unfortunately, as so often is the case with our President, he is flip-flopping. Now he is backing into a conflict with eyes wide open -- a conflict that, once again, has no positive outcome.
Hezbollah and Al Qaeda represent the two sides of the Syrian conflict. Both are terrorist organizations, obviously. If you had to guess which one we were more likely to help in this case, most would say, “Hezbollah is the lesser of two evils.” Wrong, we are supporting Al Qaeda.
Surely this cannot be, since Obama personally declared Al Qaeda defeated just this past May. Perhaps he meant the non-US supported branch of Al Qaeda.
But I digress.
Our man in the fight has been our greatest foe since 2001. Their primary purpose is to expel Americans from the Middle East and take the fight to the American mainland itself. Somehow, Al Qaeda is now our beacon of hope for democracy in Syria.
The best outcome would be to give the Syrian Al Qaeda supported rebels just enough firepower to keep fighting so both sides kill each other. And then all the equipment we deliver magically disappears.
But the war will end and there will be a victor of sorts. If Assad and Hezbollah win, Iran can strengthen its ties with the two groups, most likely throwing Lebanon firmly under Hezbollah control and provoking Israeli response. Jordan and Turkey have also been actively trying to oust Assad, so his victory could easily foretell another explosion of Middle East conflict.
A rebel victory gives Al Qaeda a new base of operations. The Syrian desert is an uncontrollable wasteland, just like the Iraqi desert was.
We should not expect these rebels to suddenly like us because we helped them. That seems to be a reoccurring fallacy that interventionists entertain.
Syrians, in general, distrust foreign -- especially Western -- influence. The rebels have been begging for help from the West for 2 years; coming late to the party does not endear us to them, even if that very help turns the tide. Under no circumstances can we assume that we will have standing with the new rebel government.
So the US is left in the classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position.
Modern interventionism is a fool’s errand. America has always proclaimed it does not desire an empire, and we have largely followed that tenant. We could have easily maintained control of Iraq and confiscated its oil money to pay for the war, but we did not.
If there is no economic reason for the US to intervene, then there must be a strategic reason. I cannot see how being in Syria is a better strategic position than being in Iraq. And we willfully left Iraq.
In Syria we have no positive strategic outcomes, so that point is moot.
If the UK and France want to get involved, then they can go beg Germany for some money and do it themselves. I am sure Germany is willing to listen since they were Syria’s top importer of oil. If Europe wants to challenge Russia and Iran in a proxy war for oil, let them foot their own bill. We have been down that road enough the past 10 years.
So I say let them fight their own war. We should not waste our blood or treasure playing kingmaker to those that revile us.