Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly kicked off his Monday show badly misreading the situation in Syria. He opined that not striking Syria is “another great win for the war criminals” and that the U.S. should step in and “impose some justice on the planet” along with our allies. He concluded, making a pained face, that America is “too weak to even take care of a cheap thug like Assad.”
Military weakness isn’t the issue here. History is an issue, and trust is an issue. Alliances are an issue. Weakness isn’t, at least not as O’Reilly apparently means it.
Could the U.S. “take care of a cheap thug like Assad” if it was in our interests to do so? Of course. Assad is mini-Saddam, and Syria is mini-Iraq. If you could remove the jihadist element and there was no risk of Syria turning from bad to worse, we could take down the Syrian military and replace Assad with ease. Our military could do the job in a matter of weeks. Power isn’t the problem.
One problem with intervening in Syria is the possibility that war quickly spreads. Russia and China may sense that Barack Obama presents them their greatest opportunity to take the United States down a few pegs. They are allied with Syria, as is Iran. War could spread, quickly, far beyond Syria.
History is a problem. The world has seen what flows into vacuums of power in places where Islam is the dominant culture. Americans fight and die only to see Islamist states rise in our wake. Or, dictators fall and are replaced by failed states, which incubate Islamist terrorism. We win the wars but lose either way. Iraq has not turned out to be the model of freedom for the Middle East. Afghanistan is and probably always will be a basket case. Libya is a flailing state where Islamist terrorism is flourishing. No one in their right mind sees this, looks at Syria, and says “More, please!”
The American people see this and rightly conclude that with no good options on the horizon, it just doesn’t make sense to risk our blood and treasure for a fight in Syria. The Baathist thug would be followed by some form of Islamist government as surely as night follows day, unless we made the choice from the beginning to ruthlessly impose some better form of government across a long-term strategy. The current media environment doesn’t allow that, our current leadership would never do that, and it’s debatable whether the facts on the ground would ever follow that. Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt should have taught us something about people and cultures. I think they have, which explains the reluctance to intervene in Syria, a civil war with no good sides, that is not our fight.