The Upcoming Unfortunate War with Syria
August 31, 2013
Jon Carroll / San Francisco Chronicle
Commentary: "Have we started shooting missiles at Syria yet? Oh, it's such a bad idea. More foreign blood on American hands -- not good. Interfering in the affairs of the nations of the Middle East? It has not worked so well for us previously, as our fraught relationship with Israel demonstrates. Getting sucked into another foreign war? Boy, you would have thought that we had learned that lesson."
(August 29, 2013) -- It is hard for me to know what your reality is. Have we started shooting missiles at Syria yet? In my time, we are just threatening to, but we may have taken the next step by the time you read this.
Oh, it's such a bad idea. More foreign blood on American hands -- not good. Interfering in the affairs of the nations of the Middle East? It has not worked so well for us previously, as our fraught relationship with Israel demonstrates. Getting sucked into another foreign war? Boy, you would have thought that we had learned that lesson.
Of course, Obama pledges that there will be no American boots on the ground. That may even be true -- but is it really moral to rain terror from above for a cause that Americans don't support enough to fight for personally? It's America as the blind assassin, taking out people from the clouds -- or, with drones, from thousand of miles away.
Remember when Hillary Rodham Clinton and many other professional thinkers assured us that the Assad regime was just a shell of its former self, unable to hold out very long against the will of the people? That was two years ago. For a regime on its last legs, it's doing pretty well. Indeed, experts say that over the last two months, it's been kind of winning.
So our plan is to enter that battle on the losing side.
And what a side it is. Jihadists from all over the region, hoping to turn Syria into the next anti-American state ruled by Shariah law. These are our friends, dear readers. We like them because they're not allied with Iran, and the balance of power ... truth is, no one really knows how it will shake out.
Whatever way, we'll have more enemies than when we started. Those rebels can be an ungrateful lot.
We are on a perpetual war footing. We have the biggest military in the history of militaries. When you have a large military, it can grow restive. It can agitate for something to do. But all it can do is fight wars and kill people. We need protection, sure, but we don't need these proxy wars.
A war in Syria would be a proxy war, make no mistake. The issue is Iran's sway in the area. So that's what we'd be fighting about, preventing the spread of the Iranian hegemony. People forget that we've been at proxy war with Iran for a very long time. We even helped Saddam Hussein when he was gassing Iranians. It's all the same battle; only the cannon fodder changes.
When you have a large military, every problem looks like a military problem. Every problem must have a military solution. It makes us blind to the other possibilities. Russia is not blind to the other possibilities. I hate to say that I like Russia's stance on Syria (peace talks rather than armed intervention) better than I like my own government's, but there you are.
There's a humanitarian reason for intervening in Syria. A hundred thousand people have been killed, and someone must intervene to end this suffering. But if the only way we can think of to end the suffering is to cause more suffering, maybe we should sit out this round.
The argument that President Obama is using to justify the attacks is that Assad used chemical weapons. It doesn't make a lot of sense in this instance -- why would Syria risk foreign intervention into a war it's currently winning, and then do it just once?
But suppose it happened. How do chemical weapons change the equation? Surely the people killed by conventional weapons suffered just as much as the people killed by chemical weapons. A death is a death; a soul is a soul. The potential for mass suffering from chemical weapons remains great, I agree. But why are we in charge of enforcing the Geneva Conventions?
Russia and China are being un-useful in the Security Council; the United Nations is really where this inquiry -- and the decisions about intervention -- should emanate from.
And here's the other problem for the Obama administration. As it revs up its campaign to convince everyone that the chemical weapons were definitely Assad's and it all really did happen, it's beginning to sound suspiciously like another administration that wanted to have a war in Iraq, and set about lying to get one.
See Joe Biden on television defending the idea of air strikes; think Dick Cheney. We have always had good reason to distrust the government; now that we may be entering another warlike conflict, the time for skepticism is right this minute.
Stumbling down the road to war again, ignoring the many obvious potholes.
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