War in Syria: Just Say No
Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the war in Iraq. After 10 years, I still believe that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime was the correct decision, but that the aftermath of the initial invasion was horribly managed, with poor rules of engagement, no clear strategy, and no real definition of “victory.” Even after the successful surge in troop levels helped to prevent an immediate decline into civil war and achieve an unsteady peace, the inability of the Obama Administration to come to a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government not only left the United States with no tangible benefits 10 years later, but also left Iraq in a precarious position that runs the risk of declining into civil war that could have horrible regional consequences.
Today, we are seeing a very similar and bipartisan drumbeat from the usual suspects like Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Carl Levin, plus the “humanitarian” left like the Washington Post’s editorial page eager to get the United States involved in the civil war currently going on in Syria. These calls seemed to hit a crescendo last week after rumors of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people (weapons that probably came from Iraq a decade ago in the lead-up to the coalition’s invasion). Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has a precedent of getting involved in Middle Eastern civil wars after our involvement in the overthrow of the Moammar Qaddafi regime in Libya, which has only further destabilized the already volatile region (as the old saying goes, Qaddafi may have been an SOB, but he was our, disarmed, SOB). The Obama Administration, and members of Congress eager to get involved in another war, should think better and say not only no, but HELL NO.
After the failed experiment in Libya (in which the United States actually ended up on the same side of the conflict as al Qaida), the last thing the United States needs is to do the exact same thing in Syria. Yes, Assad is a horrible, brutal dictator, but there is no compelling national interest for the United States to get involved in helping to remove him from power. If anything, given the lessons of Libya and Iran in the 1970s, the United States, strategically speaking, should help keep Assad in power as a stabilizing force in Syria just to prevent that country from falling into even worse hands like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya or descending into further chaos that could spread to its neighbors and further destabilize the region.
That said, fortunately there are no serious calls for the United States to actually help Assad’s regime. There is no good reason for the United States to do so, just as there is no good reason for the United States to get involved in another war of questionable strategic importance and with no real tangible payout at the end. The United States must stop being the world’s policeman, getting involved everywhere that something inconvenient is happening or trying to depose every brutal dictator. While I believe that freedom is the natural state of humanity, it is impossible to impose that freedom on a nation-state by just deposing a brutal dictator (see: Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran). Sometimes, the end result is the same or even worse than the previous tyrannical regime (see: Egypt, Libya, and Iran; the jury is still out on Iraq and Afghanistan). That has seemed to be particularly difficult in the Middle East where radical Islam continues to spread, putting one nation after another under radical religious regimes that stifle freedom for its people, threaten regional stability, and become enemies of the United States.
There simply is nothing to gain from getting involved in yet another conflict that will probably end up just adding an even more emboldened enemy of the United States. The United States also has nothing to gain from getting involved in the intramural Sunni-Shiite power struggle being waged and led by the Saudi and Iranian regimes. With no strategic or economic interest in American involvement in Syria, the Obama administration and members of Congress should just say no to getting involved and stay as far out of that conflict as possible.
Jeff Scott is a former and aspiring future radio host currently hosting his own weekly podcast, which you can find at www.jeffscottshow.com. You can find him @jeffscottshow on Twitter and on Facebook.