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Works and Days

Count Me Out on Syria

May 13th, 2013 - 9:44 am

Yes, call him dumb, naïve, amateurish, but not conniving or Kissengerian — as his realist critics, in fact, lamented. So the U.S. removed a monster who had killed a million. It stayed on at great cost. It took no oil. It took no territory. It ended up without even a base. After 9/11 it sought to remove a terrorist-subsidizing tyrant, end the no-fly zones, create something better, and spread constitutional governments in the wake. The Chinese, French, and Russians ended up profiting from U.S. blood and treasure.

Please, Spare Us Now “You Owe Us Help”

If Arab reformers ever wanted a shot at democracy, Iraq was still their golden opportunity. Instead, almost all damned the effort and caricatured Americans. I once in 2006 sat in a clinic in Tripoli listening to Arab intellectuals (or rather Gaddafi minders) explain to me the Jewish roots of the Iraqi war, and how Americans were siphoning oil off in the desert and flying it in tankers home. Finally, I could not even follow all the conspiracy theories concocted to explain how wicked the Maliki government was.

Please, spare us now “you owe us your help.” Al Jazeera one day magically can show videos of an IED tearing apart American soldiers, and the next day it is just a “media outlet” that gives Al Gore millions of its petrodollars for his access to cable TV. I’m sure it will advocate for Assad to go, for reformers to take his replace, and demonize the U.S. and “the Jews” all through the process.

We have been there, done that, and we have learned some great lessons about the 21st century, pre-modern Middle East, and any interventions into it: a) Arab reformers damn the U.S. for doing nothing, but they will damn it far more for doing something; b) interventionists believe that all success is their offspring, and failure is outsourced to someone else, usually the military or those who sent the military in; c) the Middle East lesson of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is that only a huge U.S. ground presence, in the fashion of postwar Italy, Germany, or Japan, coupled with abject defeat of the enemy, can lead to any chance of consensual government.

Without bloody fighting and without massive U.S. aid either the enemy wins and takes over, or what replaces the enemy reverts to the mindset of the enemy. We can stand-off bomb as we did in the Balkans to bring something better, but the Balkans are in Europe, and we still have troops in the Balkans, and lots of those who pushed Clinton into bombing later wanted him to stop when it seemed all we could do was hit embassies and rest homes rather than missile sites.

Does this mean that under no circumstances should we ever bomb Iran, or take out a mass murderer with WMD? Perhaps not. But it does suggest that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, neither is the Middle East ready for U.S. invention nor is this generation of American elite leadership up for the task.

There is irony in seeing the opportunistic war critic Barack Obama out-drone Bush or be attacked on his Left by liberals, who rail at his callousness in not intervening in Syria. But there is not enough irony for schadenfreude — given that American soldiers might be sent into a theater by those who would support them only to the degree that they were deemed successful and blame their setbacks on everyone but themselves.

A nearly bankrupt and divided America after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is not up for Syria — and an Arab Spring that on its own chose Winter does not deserve any more American blood.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

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Top Rated Comments   
Yes. 9/11 ripped the lid off the bitter social divide that was percolating under the surface. I too supported the removal of Sadaam, but did not anticipate the viciousness of the Leftist attack as they, Vietnam-like, used the war (and the deaths of heroic Americans) to fuel their attack on the Constitution. This was a calculated and vicious betrayal, and its nature tells you everything you need to know about what kind of people are driving this neo-communist / globalist putsch.

I supported the war in Iraq because what I saw looming was a generational war with a re-emerging worldview that was hostile to our existence: Jihadism, or Islam in its militant form. Like most religions, Islam has peaceful as well as war-like aspects, and whichever aspect is predominant depends on a variety of factors. As opposed to Christianity, Islam's peaceful aspect is fragile and thin, while it's warlike aspect is large and emphatic.

Historically, Islam was either in united, expansionist mode, or in divided, impotent mode. When it's the former, neighbors would shudder, when in the latter there was nothing to worry about. Now, in the age of WMD, its a different story. Even in their “dormant” phase, with a single spectacular attack they can turn a super-power on its head.

Many argued that Iraq under Sadaam had nothing to do with Jihad. That was not true, albeit the connections were tenuous, they were there. Here was a belligerent ruler, openly trying to destabilize the entire region, not to mention the petroleum economy. He could and would have wrapped himself in the cloak of Jihad, and employed terrorist methods anytime it seemed expedient. Trying to preempt him, and to break the wider Jihadist pattern by sending a message to other Arab leaders made sense, but as VDH points out, it was poorly executed. A deep enough understanding of the dynamics of the region appears to have been lacking, particularly Iran's willingness to enter the conflict using guerrilla methods. A broader campaign was necessary, and more pain had to be inflicted. It's the hard reality of war with extremist enemies. And again as VDH points out, the worse thing a super-power can do in those circumstances is withdraw. In the tribal equation any sign of weakness, psychological or otherwise, only invites further aggression.

Now we are in the doubly dangerous position of fighting a religious enemy who is de-centralized and can strike from any direction; and who is in league and being supported by elements of our own government. The leftist-globalists seem to be using the US military to re-shape the political landscape in the middle-east, even going so far as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and even Al-Qaeda to do so. If this were a movie, I'd shake my head and say it was too far-fetched to be believable. But unfortunately its not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agreed - there is no such thing as moderate islam - there is only islam.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is no strategic reason to expose one US soldier to death in Syria. If Al Queda gets Assad's gas supplies and uses them, that's a casus belie and we can pound them and their allies later. We need to stop being the world's damn policeman. We have no allies in Syria, only enemies who are unworthy of our aid.
The US should arm Israel to the teeth, tell the Egyptians it was nice while it lasted, and tell the rest of the Arab nations they are on their own. Let them fight among themselves Sunni vs Shia. Not another American penny to any Arab-Islam nation. We get nothing but trouble from the Arab countries, we'd be much better off with very limited contact.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (51)
All Comments   (51)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
We haven't really had a successful intervention since Korea and that was a stalemate. Enough, particularly in the Islamic world. Persian Gulf oil is no longer a major factor, let these people fight it out and solve their own problems.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Peace in the Middle East = depopulated Middle East. It's just that simple.

Islam, can't trust it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
a MoveOn.Org labeling Petraeus “General Betray Us,”

And a sitting Senator, future Secretary of State calling belief in the veracity of Petraeus' Iraq progress report required "A willing suspension of disbelief..." or, in shorter words, a lie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wouldn't trust any theater of war...to theater majors.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well written and correct, as usual. I can simplify it into a single sentence: What is our national interest in Syria? Before anyone says "Peace in the Middle East", taming the animals in Syria won't do it. Neither will it work in Libya or any of these other pitiful excuses for a nation. We should support Israel and wash our hands of the rest of this filth: The Jews are well capable of dealing with the Arabs when that becomes necessary. Not one more drop of US blood should be wasted on this part of the world.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Made-Ron Paul by the force of history. It was an eventuality. Glad it happened.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great arguement, Professor. It sure would be great if we gave the Syrian conflict as good of a leaving alone as we have given the conflicts in Mali, Somalia, Rwanda etc.

Unfortunately for America, it seems, if the rumors are true, that we are already involved with arming the opposition in Syria.

And one more thing, also in the rumor mill, is that I have read that Russia has been pushing for peace talks on Syria, but our media refuses to report on that but only portrays Russia as a warmonger on the "wrong" side in the conflict. (As if there were a "correct" side!)

This rumor, whether true or not, raises the question that we never hear open calls from the US Administration for peace talks among the parties in Syria..

Why is that?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

I tend to view Islam as a globalization of 7th Century Arab tribal culture under the guise of religion. It has made little progress since and the people on whom it has been inflicted show little ability to challenge or change it.

Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn't include constraining, undermining, or eradicating Islam, you don't have a plan. What you have is a hope.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mo's dicta really date from the Neolithic age -- 12,000 ybp compared to 1,200 ybp.

He was completely retro by even Eighth Century standards -- being unable to restrain his feral brigandry -- breaking all taboos.

Pashtunwali -- the way of the Pashtun is PURE Neolithic thinking. The ISAF runs into it all the time.

Thinking that ONLY 12 centuries separates our norms causes no end of troubles.

The Jews and Arab polytheist-pagans of his time were thousands of years more morally advanced than Mo.' That has to be acknowledged -- and broadcast.

Mo' was a sociopath, a scoundrel by even ancient standards. At one time or another, he committed every crime known.




1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dr. Hanson, I agree with everything you said. The blood of our young people is too precious to waste on peoples whose very desire is to kill and they don't care who. Let them kill each other.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not just let, HELP them kill each other.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The history of the Middle East in particular (see Iran in 1980) and world history in general (cf. France, 1794 or Russia, 1917) suggests that the more extreme, better organized revolutionary zealots, even when in the minority, usually win out over the moderate and sensible reformers in the post-war sorting out and sizing up."

Dr. Hanson

I couldn't agree more as I witness an extreme minority driving our own country into the ground. A bitter warning for what awaits us if we continue down our current path. Ours is not a (yet or perhaps ever) an armed war but is in fact a cultural, class, race, gender, political war but nonetheless a war that will culminate in our eventual death by suicide and hopefully a decent resurrection when we are forced to return to the roots of family, spirit and the soul, local government, small government, free markets and the hands on individual freedoms that made this country great.

No guarantees I realize, but it would seem that we need to collapse before the average person gets it.

Then again maybe there really is a Marxist Utopia and I'm all wet. In that event "All Hail the Collective".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes. 9/11 ripped the lid off the bitter social divide that was percolating under the surface. I too supported the removal of Sadaam, but did not anticipate the viciousness of the Leftist attack as they, Vietnam-like, used the war (and the deaths of heroic Americans) to fuel their attack on the Constitution. This was a calculated and vicious betrayal, and its nature tells you everything you need to know about what kind of people are driving this neo-communist / globalist putsch.

I supported the war in Iraq because what I saw looming was a generational war with a re-emerging worldview that was hostile to our existence: Jihadism, or Islam in its militant form. Like most religions, Islam has peaceful as well as war-like aspects, and whichever aspect is predominant depends on a variety of factors. As opposed to Christianity, Islam's peaceful aspect is fragile and thin, while it's warlike aspect is large and emphatic.

Historically, Islam was either in united, expansionist mode, or in divided, impotent mode. When it's the former, neighbors would shudder, when in the latter there was nothing to worry about. Now, in the age of WMD, its a different story. Even in their “dormant” phase, with a single spectacular attack they can turn a super-power on its head.

Many argued that Iraq under Sadaam had nothing to do with Jihad. That was not true, albeit the connections were tenuous, they were there. Here was a belligerent ruler, openly trying to destabilize the entire region, not to mention the petroleum economy. He could and would have wrapped himself in the cloak of Jihad, and employed terrorist methods anytime it seemed expedient. Trying to preempt him, and to break the wider Jihadist pattern by sending a message to other Arab leaders made sense, but as VDH points out, it was poorly executed. A deep enough understanding of the dynamics of the region appears to have been lacking, particularly Iran's willingness to enter the conflict using guerrilla methods. A broader campaign was necessary, and more pain had to be inflicted. It's the hard reality of war with extremist enemies. And again as VDH points out, the worse thing a super-power can do in those circumstances is withdraw. In the tribal equation any sign of weakness, psychological or otherwise, only invites further aggression.

Now we are in the doubly dangerous position of fighting a religious enemy who is de-centralized and can strike from any direction; and who is in league and being supported by elements of our own government. The leftist-globalists seem to be using the US military to re-shape the political landscape in the middle-east, even going so far as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and even Al-Qaeda to do so. If this were a movie, I'd shake my head and say it was too far-fetched to be believable. But unfortunately its not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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