Sometimes, President Obama, making the right choice will still be very painful. (Image Source: Reuters)
So, we enter the Labor Day Weekend with the distinct possibility that President Barack Obama will order a military intervention of some kind against Syria. The primary reason for this strike, which has only the support of France at this time, has to do with the use of chemical weapons in several neighborhoods in eastern Damascus last week. This is despite American intelligence not even know who is responsible for the attacks, with their intelligence report filled with caveats and stretches of the imagination. There are some who will argue for Obama's intervention, to save the lives of Syrians. But even with such flimsy grounds to do so, and despite the devastation that the Syrian people have suffered under Bashar al-Assad's regime and this civil war, Obama must, if coldly, stay away from intervention, if we are to regain any sense of standing and dignity.
This is not some anti-war rant. While I tend to favor diplomacy over violence, I understand why we are violent, why war exists, and how it is very, very difficult for anyone to restrain themselves enough to not commit violence. It's foolish to completely embrace a pacifist agenda, especially without looking at every facet of why people act the way they do. Still, the notion that we can do anything meaningful in Syria is ridiculous and insane, and the best thing we can do for our sake is to stay out of the country as best we can.
To understand why, consider the facts on the ground: Syria is heavily divided by separate communities. While Arab Sunni Muslims take up the majority of the populace, there are large numbers of Shia Muslims, particularly of the Alawite community that controls the current government, not to mention Christians and other religions. There are also Kurds in the northern reaches of the country. The amount of sectarian fighting that has already been occurring in the civil war is staggering, with Sunnis fighting Shias and Kurds, and Christians under fire from all sides.
The last time such sectarian fighting occurred was in Iraq, and that is still happening. All of the fighting happened not in spite of, but because of our country's invasion of the country. Back then, we also used shoddy evidence and aggressive persuasion to make the case for attacking Iraq. Once the invasion ended, and it was evident that we needed to occupy this country, which we did for nearly 8 years at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet, when we clear out, they still cannot get along, as was demonstrated this week with a car bombing in Baghdad. Our reputation as a global power has been forever tarnished by that invasion and occupation, and we are entering a very similar situation in Syria if we choose to intervene.
Furthermore, the great irony of the Syrian civil war is that, while the Iraq invasion was intended to stamp out terrorism, our intervention would actually be supporting the very terrorists we despise. The rebellion in the northern part of the country is primarily manned by Islamists, including al-Nusrah Front, a jihadist faction allied with al-Qaeda. There is little doubt that, once Assad is killed or overthrown, these Islamists and terrorists will want a stake in the country, and will eventually fight their secular allies in the south to claim that stake, given that they simply have little in common to work with. That the so-called "opposition" that claims to politically represent the rebellion cannot even agree on a single point of agenda other than removing Assad speaks volumes of the trouble we face. It is going to get worse before it gets better, no matter what happens. The chemical attacks in Damascus are not a rock bottom, and many more are going to die even if we do show up.
For Obama to intervene would be equal to running headlong into a Black Friday opening at Wal-Mart with a giant club for absolutely no reason. Even simple missile strikes, the most basic option, would do nothing to change things or make things better, especially since the Syrian military has smartly evacuated key strategic outposts and bases ahead of time. If we were to attack, and somehow we manage to hit something and cause a change in the war, what then? What would we gain? As said before, if Assad were to fall, the civil war would still continue for years onward, just because there is no peace between the factions. Our credibility, already shattered from our disaster that was Iraq and partial disaster that is Afghanistan, would be gone and meaningless. We would be a joke.
More importantly, though, very few people in this country want in on Syria. People are sick and tired of having to deal with the costs and consequences of fighting all around the world. It will take a generation to pay off all the money spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Libya, all during what has been a weak economy. The only people that have been consistently screeching for an intervention and beating the war drums are elite lobbyists and politicians who either want the United States to be the Middle East's policeman, or are just itching to pick a fight anywhere to show off American firepower, as well as some politicians who want to hold Obama accountable for a silly "red line" comment.
These elitists all reside in Washington (with some of their supporters outside of it), a place that has become a bubble from the rest of the country due to their clique-ish behavior and detached view of reality. The hawks that scream for war have the audacity to believe that the public's negative opinion on intervening in Syria is actually the main reason to press for intervention. These elites are a problem, because they honestly believe that only they know what's best for the country, the will of the people be damned. Unfortunately, these same elitists can reach Obama's ears.
Look, what is happening in Syria is horrific, and a flagrant disregard of humanity. It is utterly criminal, and Assad is a fiendish bastard who is utterly manipulative of the situation. But Obama is in no position to do something about it, and to intervene will only cost us greatly for a result that will likely not change a thing in Syria, if it does not make things worse. We need to step back and not intervene in Syria. We need to accept that we have failed in the past, and that the Syrian civil war is too complex for us to take on. We have to accept that sometimes, the least worst option for us is to stay away from the bloodletting, for the same number of people will die if we do intervene. The only difference would be that our blood will be joining theirs.