The drumbeat to send the US military into Syria without United Nations authorization is reaching a fever pitch. Former Senator Lieberman announced last week in the Washington Post that the United States should begin “limited airstrikes”, arming the Syrian opposition, and preparing for a peacekeeping force deployment into Syria. Lieberman’s article is a typical example of the neo-conservative/John McCain argument for US intervention in the Middle East.
I am amazed at the daily struggle of the interventionists to articulate a vital American interest in Syria (Vital US Interest). That is closely tied to a second point – after the first Gulf War when we intervene in the Middle East we radicalize it against the United States (Effectiveness). The exact opposite result that Lieberman predicts.
Vital US Interest
The first US national interest supposedly at issue is that if we do not intervene, Al Qaeda will use a failed state Syria as a base. So, why don’t we intervene in Yemen which is already a failed state full of Al Qaeda? Why don’t we intervene in Somalia? Why don’t we intervene in the Gaza Strip?
The next argument is that the carnage in Syria approaching 70,000 dead and many times that wounded requires the US to intervene and stop it on humanitarian grounds. Where in the Constitution does it say the US is responsible for slaughters in other countries? Why are we not intervening in the Congo where far more people have died? Why not Somalia, North Korea, Mali, the Central African Republic, Burma, Chechnya, etc? Oh, and I suppose we should go back into Iraq as it drifts back into sectarian violence?
Before we invaded Iraq we now know there was no Al Qaeda in country. Once we intervened we almost lost control of the country to Al Qaeda. Only the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American service women and men reversed this unintended consequence of our invasion. Are we ready to send hundreds of thousands of more Americans into Syria if our intervention unexpectedly strengthens Al Qaeda in Syria?
Lieberman argues that the failure to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition is responsible for “the fury of ordinary Syrians toward the U.S., whom they understandably see as callously indifferent to their suffering.” When were ordinary Syrians not furious with the US in the last 50 years? And what evidence is there that intervention would change that? Did intervention in Iraq next door make Iraqis pro-American? The same Iraqis who are now facilitating Iranian arms shipments to President Assad in Damascus.
After the Gulf War in 1992 what US intervention in the Middle East has advanced US interests? Somalia? Iraq? There is not a single example.
Lieberman then argues, “(a)s in the Balkans in the 1990s, peacekeeping forces will be needed if there is any prospect of holding Syria together.” Quite a slip. Month after month Senator McCain and others have assured we are not talking “about boots on the ground.” In the Balkans the US, Britain, and France led a 57,000 member peacekeeping force authorized in the Dayton Accords, including 20,000 heavily armored US troops and several brigades of French and British troops.
What evidence is there Arabs will welcome another occupying force in a major Arab country? Particularly if it includes former colonial powers like the British and French along with imperial America? After the first Gulf War in 1992 there is simply no evidence Arabs, let alone Syrians, will welcome foreign peacekeepers. What Syrian opposition group is calling for such a force?
There is horror in Syria, but no US vital interest at stake. There is no evidence that US intervention would be effective in winning support of Syrians or Arabs. And the usual suspects pushing for the intervention are a subset of the same people who told us the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators.
In 1940 President Roosevelt determined that unchecked fascism in Europe ultimately would attack the United States (Vital US Interest). He dispatched Avril Harriman and Harry Hopkins to Britain to determine if the US supplied armaments to the British could they and would they continue fighting Hitler (Effectiveness). They reported that the British would with or without US aid fight to the bitter end. The United States intervened decisively with aid.
Syria is not Britain in 1940.