By laying down a “red line,” Pres. Obama probably set himself up to be pushed into taking the first steps to get the U.S. “involved” in what amounts to a civil war in Syria. United States military support for Syrian rebels, we are told, will include small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons. The Senate’s uber war-hawks, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been pressing this issue for a while, and I predict they will view the President’s action as a necessary, but insufficient, response. Mark me down as a skeptic in the face of this decision. I have a foreboding sense of déjà vu.
I will admit, arguendo, that the President’s action can be justified on humanitarian grounds, but that rationale, left unqualified, can be used to get the U.S. into dozens of other deplorable situations around the world. As a justification for military action, it is a carte blanche. When we begin down this road, we have to be as selective as we do trooping down the military road, because we cannot take them all on and we cannot solve all nations’ problems. Thus, to some humanitarian needs, we will have to say no.
I wonder if, in preparation for this action in Syria and the subsequent actions it may provoke, certain predicate questions have been asked and answered (as they were not in preparation for the US invasion of Iraq).
First, to whom are we giving these weapons and how do we know we can trust that group and its leaders? Will those weapons be used against us at some time in the future?
Second, if during our involvement in Syria, the Assad regime collapses, what are our plans to deal with that? I hope something less whimsical than Donald Rumsfeld’s response to the chaos in Iraq after the fall, i.e., “stuff happens.”
Third, what is our end purpose, for what reason(s) are we getting involved?
Fourth, how will we know when we have reached that end purpose?
Fifth, what are the possible consequences to the US from other parts of the region as a result of our involvement?
It is in the interest of the United States to go slow here. It is not that I care less about Syrian interests but that I care more about American interests. Iraq offers us some lessons that need thorough review before moving in Syria. I am not sure that what America needs now is another war in the Middle East, and I am equally unsure that a limited engagement in support of the rebels in Syria will forestall such a war simply by virtue of the limited scope of this initial involvement. It may invite one.