29 August 2013

Syria isn't Iraq 2003 -- it's Afghanistan 1980

The US, Britain, and France are poised to launch military strikes on Syria in response to a chemical-weapons attack carried out near Damascus a few days ago.  There are many reasons why this action is likely to be unwise -- the proposed strikes will not seriously damage the regime, it's not yet totally clear that the chemical-weapons attack was the work of the regime rather than of the rebels, the situation in Syria is dauntingly complex, we risk conflict with Russia which is supporting the regime, Western military interventions in the Middle East have a track record of poor results to say the least.  But if none of those things gives you pause, consider this:  We will be fighting on the same side as al-Qâ'idah.

How the hell did we get into that position?

There are no "good guys" in the Syrian war.  The Asad regime is among the most brutal on the planet, with a record of torture and mass murder horrific even by Middle Eastern standards.  The rebellion against it, though, is increasingly dominated by Islamists who have been carrying out escalating atrocities against Syria's Christian and Alawite minorities.  Syria is a diverse country and its only hope for decent governance would be a non-sectarian state recognizing equal civil and political rights for members of all groups.  If anything, the rebels' actions will drive the minorities into the arms of the regime.  And, yes, al-Qâ'idah units are now in Syria and fighting as part of the rebellion.

Why would we want to help the rebels win?  We already know the likely outcome if they do.  We've seen this movie before, and even played a similar role in it.

In 1980 we began a long campaign of intervention against a Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan, on behalf of rebels helped and guided by a nearby Islamist country (Pakistan).  The motive was to limit the expansion of Soviet power (I suspect there was also an element of revenge for our defeat in Vietnam).  In the course of this campaign we ended up supporting the Islamists who were growing in importance among the anti-regime guerrilla forces.  The indirect result was that we facilitated the fall of a state which was at least somewhat secular and pro-modernity, and the take-over of the country by Islamist barbarians.  Later, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan played host to al-Qâ'idah as the latter carried out a series of attacks on us, culminating in the September 11 atrocity.

Now we're about to begin a campaign of intervention against a Russian-backed regime in Syria -- it's not going to end with a few airstrikes, not after it becomes clear that those airstrikes have had no real impact on the regime's behavior -- in de facto support of rebels helped and guided by a nearby Islamist country (Saudi Arabia).  The motive -- punishing the use of chemical weapons -- is, if anything, less vital to our national interests than curbing Soviet expansion was in 1980.  By attacking the regime we will inevitably be facilitating the cause of the largely-Islamist rebels.  If we do eventually act decisively enough to help bring down the regime, we'll be facilitating a take-over by Islamists who are likely to be about as friendly to us, and about as good for their hapless subjects, as the Taliban were.  We won't need to wait years for the new regime to invite al-Qâ'idah in, though.  They're already there.

I'm no supporter of the Asad regime.  It's a horror.  But this is Syria we're talking about.  There aren't any good options and it's not in our power to bring them into existence.  We can, however, make the situation a lot worse, for ourselves and likely for the Syrians too.  And I'm afraid that's exactly what we're about to do.


Blogger Ahab said...

As horrified as I am by the Asad regime, I too fear that U.S. military intervention would only make things worse. It's tough to decide on an action when no trult prudent options exists.

Are the U.S. and its allies doing anything to help the refugee situation, to your knowledge?

29 August, 2013 06:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: As far as I know, most of the help the refugees are getting is being provided by the governments of Turkey and Jordan, where most of them have ended up. The UN is providing some basic supplies. I haven't heard about any help from the West aside from a few Israeli humanitarian groups working in Jordan.

29 August, 2013 07:10  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Let's hope Obama comes to his senses and doesn't interfere in another Middle Eastern country. Why don't the countries there do something about the monster Assad?

30 August, 2013 14:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: By Middle Eastern standards Syria is a pretty decent-strength military power, and most other local states are also ruled by dictators who (a) don't give a damn about human rights and (b) don't want to establish a precedent that dictators can legitimately be overthrown for abusing their own people.

Israel and Turkey are democracies and strong enough to bring Asad down, but both of them have other priorities and aren't motivated to interfere as long as they themselves aren't threatened. There's also the problem of what would replace Asad; as Iraq showed, even a very strong occupying power has trouble controlling the course of events after a dictator is overthrown.

31 August, 2013 04:59  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for your assessment on this Infidel, I been trying to keep up with this and have supported the President to take action, BUT ... this is one of the most confusing messes that I have ever seen, and agree with the fact that there isnt a snowball's chance in Hell of doing the right thing, I wonder now if we should stay out of it? I generally like to stay out of Arab nation's business, but I also wonder "IF" this Assad REALLY WAS behind these attack's ... who's next (I also am not very fond of Assad to begin with, so that make's my judgement kind of biased I reckon), we already know that he and his buddies like Iran arent too fond of place's like Israel. My support of an attack on Syria could be the wrong move (I didnt support the Iraq invasion, however, I still thought that Saddam had WMD's after they didnt even find any too, and obviously I was wrong, but I didnt support that because of the cost factor an seeing all the contracting involved)... too many are also saying that Assad ISNT really behind the attack's with unconventional weapon's, I say unconventional, because I frankly havent been able to pinpoint exactly what they were from what I read, so many conflicting thought's on this too. I just dont know much about this stuff in these region's either as you do. But bALOT of what your saying make's me wonder if an attack is the right move? I am also a tad hesitant because of how many nation's DONT want to stand with us, in other word's what do they know that I dont? Really a confusing mess Infidel! I been trying to just figure out who is who in all the fighting over there ....

31 August, 2013 06:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: It's still doubtful what really happened. The US government claims it's "certain" that Asad was behind the chemical-weapons attack, but the British found the evidence unconvincing. For that matter, I wonder if Asad has 100% control over his own army.

Syria is much more complicated than Iraq. But basically it's a regime that tortures and murders children vs. rebels who massacre religious minorities and include al-Qâ'idah terrorists. Not much to choose from. But as far as "who's next" goes, Asad has had chemical weapons for (probably) decades without using them. He wouldn't dare use them against Israel or Turkey or us because he knows that really would mean the end of him.

31 August, 2013 08:29  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx Infidel ... yeah, I also wondered if he used weapons as such against just say Turkey for instance, that would seem suicidal. I read up a lil on his background back a couple year's ago actually (Assad) and seen several interview's with him, he's a good salesman, he could sell a bus ticket to a wetback going to Mexico! a real sweetheart for that matter, but he also has a history of paranoia according to those who known him. Also he has shit censored as far as comment's etc in internet cafe's or whatever, and other censorship online, etc ... while in the news folk's are running around Damascus as usual as if nothing is going on, shopping or whatever, and each media has their slant of course. No ... I havent even thought of that! ... where you said/ asked if Assad has 100% control over his army. I have on Meet The Press now, and Kerry and Rand Paul are special guest's. Wonder how the GOP ruled Congress will decide on this?, several were complaining about the President (as usual) ... funny though ... if it was a GOP president, they probably would have already approved an attack via email from the golf course!

You spell it Asad ... I reckon I'm spelling that wrong too ... geeez {: )

01 September, 2013 07:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: Wonder how the GOP ruled Congress will decide on this?

It's gonna be a tough decision. They'll be torn between their desire to blow up foreign countries and their desire to block anything Obama wants.

The name is commonly spelled "Assad" in English. I spell it "Asad" because there's only one S in the Arabic pronunciation (single and double consonants are pronounced distinctly differently in Arabic).

01 September, 2013 09:45  

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