America should stay out of Syria


A year after drawing a metaphorical red line and then contemplating what shade of crimson it was, it appears the Obama administration finally has mustered the will to use military force against Syria, perhaps as soon as today. U.S. officials recently acknowledged there is little doubt that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has deployed chemical weapons against Syrian civilians during that nation’s civil war.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., senior member of the Armed Services Committee, released a statement Tuesday supporting military action. Citing “moral outrage” over the chemical attacks, Nelson said that “inaction would only lead to greater suffering and instability in the region and would further embolden Assad.”

But there’s no compelling evidence that action would produce stability, reduce suffering or persuade Assad to dial back the violence. Furthermore, if allied military strikes forced a regime change in Syria, there’s no reason to believe that Assad’s opponents would rule the nation any less ruthlessly or fanatically.

There’s little fear that the U.S. would commit troops to Syria like it did Iraq; that’s one red line that President Obama is certain not to cross (and justifiably so). Instead, he will order limited, “targeted” air strikes at Syria designed to send a message to Assad, and the rest of the world, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

Beyond that, don’t expect anything to change for the better.

If Assad remains in power — the most likely scenario — he and his military will continue to slaughter (and rape and torture) his own people, just as he did before he used chemical means. So it’s not really the body count, or the pictures of dead children, that are spurring the U.S. to action. It is simply the method used. As despicable as chemical weapons are, are they really worse than the other atrocities Assad has inflicted on his people during the 21/2-year civil war?

American cruise missiles cannot solve dysfunctional Syrian politics and its warring factions. Those opposed to the Assad regime aren’t exactly peace-loving, pro-America rebels. Removing Assad would create a power vacuum that could be filled with al-Qaida-supporting Islamists.

The mess in Egypt that has followed the end of Hosni Mubarak’s brutal rule, and the shaky situation in Libya after the U.S. toppled Moammar Gadhafi, should be sober reminders to be careful of what you wish for.

In an open letter to President Obama this week, several foreign policy experts expressed support for U.S. military intervention in Syria on the grounds that inaction “will show the world that America’s red lines are only empty threats.” That’s an argument, though, for not drawing red lines in areas that don’t affect the United States. Don’t compound one mistake by making another.

Syria’s use of chemical weapons does not threaten U.S. security, Washington does not have a clear and compelling national interest in tipping the scales in the Syrian civil war, and polls show Americans are strongly opposed to intervention. Those are good reasons to stay out.

From the Panama City (Florida) News Herald

 

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