Steve Chapman

We have been there since 2001, and there is no happy resolution in sight. The former top commander in Afghanistan, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, says that "there's going to be an international military presence in Afghanistan for a long time."

Libya looked like the mission that finally changed our luck: We unleashed air power, toppled the regime of Moammar Gadhafi and made a brisk exit. But things haven't gone quite as swimmingly as we had hoped. Maybe you've heard of Benghazi?

That disaster may be the least of our troubles. The Daily Beast reports that the upheaval in Libya has been a boon to al-Qaida: "Libya has now become the main base of the terror group in the region, heightening the instability of what is already a volatile country."

If we still can't make these countries right, why do we assume we'll do better in Syria? It could easily turn out worse. McCain says U.S. ground troops won't be needed, but what if we take on Assad and he survives? Once we commit to his removal, interventionists will demand that we expand the fight rather than abandon it.

And what if a limited intervention does work? Our reward could be a government worse than the current dictatorship. One of the chief rebel factions is publicly affiliated with al-Qaida -- and others are equally extreme in outlook. U.S. intervention may deliver victory to people we wouldn't dream of letting through a TSA checkpoint.

If we go to war in Syria, it will be without any real assurance of what it will take, how long it will last, how many lives we'll lose and what the outcome will be. But if the past is any guide, we'll do it, and we'll be sorry we did.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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