It was weapons of mass destruction that got the United States (and others) bogged down in the Middle East and it seems that it will be weapons of mass destruction that suck the US military back in. The use of sarin gas by forces loyal to President Assad is quite likely to be the last straw that ensures that the USA finds itself not exactly back where it started in 2003 but pretty damn close.
Up until lately, this alternately hawkish and dovish US president has refrained from getting too involved in Syria. He has preferred to make statements from afar.
I don’t blame him, not only is the CIA running a covert ‘drone war’ on Pakistan, the US military is still stuck in a low intensity conflict in Afghanistan as well as another, difficult to classify, conflict in Yemen and just for a change of pace a game of nuclear chicken with North Korea in another theater entirely.
What leader would want to get involved in yet another front to drain away American fighting power?
For years the US has been attacked as imperialistic by many Europeans as well as Americans and hasn’t seen much in the way of value coming from its involvement in Iraq save for a bunch of body bags draped in the Stars and Stripes. The idea that the United States went into Iraq and replaced a dictator with a stable, Western style democracy would be a sick joke if it were funny, which it isn’t. Post Saddam Iraq is shaping up to be a cesspit of sectarian politics which is fairly drowning under the weight of the twin evils of corruption and terrorism.
To add insult to injury, despite the sacrifices made by US soldiers and the US taxpayer for Iraq, America doesn’t have many friends there. Then again, judging by the number of Iraqis who have died since 2003, one can hardly blame them.
Does anyone think Syria would look any better once US soldiers had died getting rid of Assad?
More like a helluva lot worse!
And this is precisely the quandary now isn’t it?
If America jumps into Syria then people all over the world, of many different political persuasions, including the hard left who should be screaming out for someone to step in and stop the carnage, stand ready to leap on America and criticize them as tyrants. If America stands by while poison gas is being used by a despotic regime fighting for nothing more than the ability to spend future decades terrorizing its population, then the United States is almost equally as guilty as the perpetrators for doing nothing while tens of thousands of people die.
The USA hasn’t been entirely idle over the past few months. Special Forces from both the UK and the US have reportedly been in Jordan training Syrian rebels for several months now. This is both familiar and shaky ground for the US and is likely to evoke memories of training the Mujahideen in Afganistan in the 1980s, a story that didn’t end so well.
Today’s America is a country that is very much still reeling from the blowback of a venture that achieved its military objectives with spectacular success only to have equally spectacular repercussions of the most catastrophic and unpredictable nature.
It was the vacuum left by the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan that led to al-Qaeda finding itself the perfect base from which to train recruits and launch operations for the global Jihad, operations that culminated in 9/11 and led to the quagmire that is the current conflict in Afghanistan.
All wars end and the same is clearly true of Syria. The smart money doesn’t rest on Assad and his forces being the ones left standing at the end of it all. The vacuum that will remain once the Syrian civil war comes to an end could and most likely will provide precisely the same environment for the Jihadis already there as the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan did.
And so there it is, the ultimate catch 22 for an American President elected on not just an American, but an international wave of optimism that he would be the one to make world peace and invent the longer lasting light bulb all in the same term. If Obama takes the US into Syria, he is certainly going to be stirring up a hornets nest as he finds himself allied with people who would probably rather turn their guns on his soldiers than they would President Assad’s. If he stays away, Syria could well become the Afghanistan that Bin Laden could only dream of.