The strategic issues have also not been fully thought out. Iran is not Nazi Germany, but it is going to get nuclear weapons no matter what happens in Syria. Its ability to project influence into the Arab world is limited to Lebanon — where the United States has always accepted it before — and to a lesser degree to Syria, even less to Iraq. One can make the case that the Sunni Islamists, without a big source of money or arms, are less threatening than Iran. Yet that depends, too, on how Sunni Islamist policy, which largely means the Muslim Brotherhood, develops.
What is needed here are cool-headed evaluations; what we see is bordering on hysteria.
There’s something in the U.S. military culture called “mission creep,” wherein the task given the U.S. forces is extended far beyond the original intention. Also, in military affairs nothing turns out to be as easy as you expect. If, for example, the rebels can’t win otherwise, will there need to be a no-fly zone? Or more intervention? All to produce a likely result of an anti-American terrorist-sponsoring dictatorship? Or perhaps it can be bought off for a while by sending billions of dollars of aid to subsidize a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship. Already we see the war hysteria building.
So let’s say that Obama sets a policy of sending only limited numbers of light weapons to moderate forces. Naturally, though, the U.S. trainers will not be able to vet every trainee. We know that’s true, and there will no doubt be terrorist-minded and extremist soldiers whose skills will increase thanks to Uncle Sam. Many of them are young; perhaps some of them won ‘t retire after the Syrian civil war ends.
But what’s really worrisome is the next step. Suppose the rebels still aren’t winning — the aides and experts and advisers then explain to the White House that unless more and better weapons are sent, then “our” side will lose. That can’t happen, right? It will be an even more humiliating loss to the Russians, Iranians, Hizballah, and the Syrian regime that not so long ago — just over two years ago — was Obama’s good buddy.
At that point, there comes escalation: more weapons, more American involvement, better arms. That is going to be a big temptation. Who is going to stand up and say “no”?
Now think of the opposite outcome: the rebels quickly reverse the tide of battle, and they are winning. In that case, the officials say, “Just a little more aid, and we can have a big victory.” Once again, mission creep.
And what would the U.S. government do if and when the rebels start murdering civilians? There are people who don’t support Israel and want the United States to reduce help because it is “immorally” doing certain things — are these criticizers of Israel going to accept rebels cutting off heads, wiping out dozens of civilians, shooting prisoners, and even eating a few body parts?