President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit this week to discuss many things, but the biggest topic appeared to be their differences over Syria. One look at a picture of their meeting tells you how poorly it went.
Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for two years. The rebels were a late bloom of the Arab Spring — beginning while the Western world was occupied with Libya.
President Obama has largely avoided getting involved, but recently cited reports of chemical weapon usage for declaring that Syrian “President” Bashar al-Assad must go. Obama backed himself into the same corner when he said Gadhafi must go last year.
Furthermore, the U.K. and France forced the White House to openly agree to supply arms to the rebels. Our allies were prompted by Iran announcing that it was sending 4,000 troops to help Assad and that Russia was sending more anti-aircraft defenses and small arms to the Syrian nationalist forces.
The Cold Warriors, like Senator McCain, want to jump into Syria in order to fight another U.S.-Soviet proxy war. See: Vietnam
Humanitarian interventionists, represented by recently appointed U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, decry the loss of innocent life and demand involvement to prevent another mass genocide like Rwanda (recent estimates put the death toll over 93,000 so far). See also: Somalia
Neo-cons still want to spread democracy and think the rebels are the best chance for a secular, peace-loving democracy in Damascus, as well as a means to weaken Iran and create another bulwark around the mullahs. See: Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are all wrong. In this case, President Obama was absolutely correct in trying to stay out of another Middle East quagmire. Unfortunately, as so often is the case with our president, he is flip-flopping. Now he is backing into a conflict with eyes wide open. A conflict that, once again, has no positive outcome.
Hezbollah and al-Qaida represent the two sides of the Syrian conflict. Both are terrorist organizations, obviously. If you had to guess which one we were more likely to help in this case, most would say, “Hezbollah is the lesser of two evils.” Wrong, we are supporting al-Qaida.
Surely this cannot be because Obama himself declared al-Qaida defeated just this past May. Perhaps, he meant the non-U.S. supported branch of al-Qaida.
But I digress.
Our man in the fight has been our greatest foe since 2001. Their primary purpose is to expel Americans from the Middle East — especially Saudi Arabia — and take the fight to the American mainland itself. Somehow, al-Qaida is now our beacon of hope for democracy in Syria.
The best outcome would be to give the Syrian al-Qaida-supported rebels just enough firepower to keep fighting so both sides kill each other. And then all the equipment we deliver magically disappears.
But the war will end and there will be a victor of sorts. If Assad and Hezbollah win, Iran can strengthen its ties with the two groups, most likely throwing Lebanon firmly under Hezbollah control and provoking Israeli response. Jordan and Turkey have also been actively trying to oust Assad, so his victory could easily foretell another explosion of Middle East conflict.
A rebel victory gives al-Qaida a new base of operations. The Syrian desert is an uncontrollable wasteland, just like the Iraq desert was.
We should not expect or even hope that suddenly these rebels will like us because we helped them. That seems to be a reoccurring fallacy that interventionists entertain.
Syrians, in general, distrust foreign and especially Western influence. The rebels have been begging for help from the West for two years; coming late to the party does not endear us to them, even if that very help turns the tide. Under no circumstances can we assume that we will have standing with the new rebel government.
So the U.S. is left in the classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position.
Modern interventionism is a fool’s errand. America has always proclaimed it does not desire an empire, and we have largely followed that tenant. We could have easily maintained control of Iraq and confiscated its oil money to pay for the war, but we did not.
If there is no economic reason for the U.S. to intervene, then there must be a strategic reason. I cannot see how being in Syria is a better strategic position than being in Iraq. And we willfully left Iraq.
In Syria we have no positive strategic outcomes, so that point is moot.
If the U.K. and France want to get involved, then they can go beg Germany for some money and do it themselves. I am sure Germany is willing to listen since they were Syria’s No. 1 importer of oil. If Europe wants to challenge Russia and Iran in a proxy war for oil, let them foot their own bill. We have been down that road enough the past 10 years.
So I say let them fight their own war. We should not waste our blood or treasure being a kingmaker to those who revile us.
Armstrong Williams is an African-American political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called “The Right Side,” and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m.) Monday through Friday. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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