Interventions and Hypocrisy

We’re at war again. It’s aerial strikes and no one has any sympathy for the bad guys, but we’re at war again, and President Obama’s speech, echoed by President Francois Hollande’s couldn’t be clearer, we are at war, and France is now fully engaged in the War on Terror, but after Serval, and Sangaris, Hollande’s credibility is almost entirely military, and even that is mitigated at this point.

But as soon as POTUS rolled out his plan for intervention in Iraq and the Levant, local powers immediately pulled the brakes on military intervention (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar), and requested the targeted strikes against ISIL include a regime change plan for Syria.

Whether this plan was ever off the table is up for debate, but it does prove that any succesful intervention in the region, and regional stability depends on a stable Syria and that any intervention must be viewed in the context of the mostly regional power struggle over Syria which remains one of the most nebulous civil wars of the early twenty first century. Despite efforts to analyze the conflict, it is still unclear what motivated its instigation by regional powers, and why western powers naively backed their allies and fueled the rebellion without viable, game-changing support.

Syria is a mystery, stooped in clusterfuck.

Any US intervention is bound to have long-term repercussions, Iraq and ISIL being the case in point. Even if ISIL is removed, you’re still dealing with a terrain that is fertile for insurrections, where anti-western sentiment is rampant, justifiably or not, and where insurgent groups will build up on anti-western appeal and present a distant, but definable threat to Europe and the United States.

With ISIL, the United States was offered a way out of the region. It had pulled troops out of Iraq, was backing out of Afghanistan, but now it has committed itself to an intervention, and a potential string of interventions, whose outcome are dipped in regional hypocrisy.

It is very convenient for local powers to distance themselves from a military intervention, but only as long as someone is actually intervening, lacking that they have to take a more hands on approach and take responsibility for their region.

The Syrian Civil War is the result of regional manipulation and foreign military aid, that ISIL have as much leeway is as much the result of US meddling in Iraq as it is the result of regional meddling in Syria. ISIL is not just the US’ responsibility, but the United States has allowed itself to be suckered into the leading role by allies who are loth to blame it for these very same interventions.

The Middle East is a Catch 22 for the United States at the best of times, but only because it allows itself to get drawn in.

Now the United States is bombing Syria, three years too late, and social networks are ablaze with criticism of US militarism, of how it reminds everybody of Iraq.

Any intervention has to deal with a significant damned if you do vs damned if you don’t cost benefit analysis, but its obvious on the face of it that a full scale intervention in Syria would not garner much popular support, and regime change in the middle of a civil war, in the middle of a regional conflict including claims for independence, ethnic and cultural autonomy is only likely to further destabilize the region. Regime change in Iraq ultimately led to ISIL, and look at regime change in Lybia, it doesn’t bode well for removing Bashar al Assad right now. And conversely supporting Assad two hundred thousand casualties later is equally insane on the face of it.

The United States and allies are left with options that range from bad to worse, the best of which would be letting regional powers and local allies take responsibility for their region.

Does ISIL represent a threat to the United States and France? Yes, but it’s a threat to homeland security, to the securité nationale, that are better handled by intelligence than by splintering splinter groups in to more splinters thousands of miles away, that would be better handled by apprehending presumed returned jihadists at the airport instead of letting them call the police of their own a few days later amazed at their own freedom.

At any rate the only way to ensure that the US and Western powers back out of the Middle East is by backing out of the Middle East, not by doing our allies dirty work for them.

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.