The U.S. Should Steer Clear of Syria

Military intervention should not be on the table.

We should be grateful that the Obama administration seems disinclined to intervene militarily in Syria. But let’s note that the administration has not kept hands off. In a variety of ways, it is already aiding the rebels. Moreover, White House spokesman Jay Carney says that all options—even military intervention—are on the table.
Americans should feel uneasy as long as that ominous table remains in the White House.

Naturally, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney never appears hesitant about going to war. He calls for “more assertive measures to end the Assad regime” in Syria. But he and his foreign-policy advisers, George W. Bush neoconservative retreads, have no idea what ending the al-Assad regime would mean. Let’s recall that Romney’s team includes some of the same people who thought Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” with the Iraqis throwing rose petals at the invading American forces. It didn’t quite work out that way. More Americans died in Iraq than died on 9/11, which, by the way, Iraq had nothing to do with. (Over a million Iraqis died, directly and indirectly, because of the war, and millions remain refugees.)

For now at least, the White House, through Carney, has it right:

The concern is that further militarization of the situation in Syria could lead to greater chaos, could make it harder to achieve the political transition that the Syrian people deserve. The nature and shape of and membership of the opposition are still something that we and our partners are assessing....

This is not to say that the rule of Bashar al-Assad is a matter of indifference to decent people. Far from it. He’s a brutal dictator from a minority sect. But no one can know what would follow his overthrow, especially one engineered by the U.S. government. Just to indicate how murky things are, al-Qaeda and Hamas—two groups the U.S. government is hardly fond of—support the rebels. Rebellions make for strange bedfellows. If the Taliban were to announce its opposition to al-Assad, the irony would be complete.

Iran, on the other hand, is al-Assad’s ally, which probably explains in large measure why the U.S. government wants al-Assad gone. Knocking him out would presumably deal a blow to Iran, and both the Obama administration and the Romney camp would like nothing more. That’s how deep the animosity toward Iran runs.

One can’t understand the U.S. anti-Assad stance apart from the Iranian context. The so-called talks between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. government plus five other countries over Iran’s nuclear enrichment are showing all the signs of a sham. Keep in mind that U.S. and Israeli intelligence say Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, and has not even decided to do so. In fact, its leader has issued a fatwa against nuclear arms.

The Obama administration, pressured by Congress, which is in turn pressured by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has imposed harsh trade sanctions on the Iranian people. This economic warfare is undoubtedly taking its toll on children, the elderly, pregnant women, and the infirm.

So, what are the talks aimed at? They are little more than a show in which the Obama administration insists that Iran stop doing what any signer of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has the recognized prerogative to do: enrich uranium for medical and energy purposes. Iran complies with the NPT and submits to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But that’s not good enough for President Obama or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads, is not a signer of the NPT, and never submits to inspections. Moreover, any other country that acquired a nuclear arsenal the way Israel did would have been condemned by the United States.

The U.S. government—and most of the news media—take as an unquestionable article of faith that virtually anything that happens in the world is America’s business. Over the years, that position has brought untold death and destruction to the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. It’s time America gave up its imperial pretensions.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. This article originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  • Tim||

    If he thinks it will help him get his Ceaser on for an election year he'll be right on it.

  • fried wylie||

    And since D's don't care about the unnecessary bombing of brown people unless a R is doing it, Syria is fucked.

  • Aresen||

    However tempting it may be to interfere; however unjust the government; however deserving the rebels, the lesson we should have learned by now is:

    STAY THE FUCK OUT OF A FAMILY FEUD.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You see what it did to Richard Dawson.

  • Aresen||

    I was going to add "Unless you know the top five most popular answers".

  • Drake||

    Carney's comments are fucking asinine. The situation cannot be further militarized. These guys show up wherever Assad needs them.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....quads.html

    Covert support for Syrian rebels is the correct move - preferably through third parties. At the least, it ties up Assad and some very bad people - limiting their ability to cause trouble elsewhere.

  • Aresen||

    I remember very similar arguments being advanced in the first 80 days of 2003.

    Just out of curiousity, what was your position on that little debate?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I seem to recall covert support for an upstart rebel in Afghanistan being the correct move back in the 80s. That seemed to work out pretty well.

  • Aresen||

    Agreed.

    I was just trying to find out if 'Drake' was thinking in terms of strategy or the sports bar.

  • Drake||

    Not suggesting we directly intervene or occupy Syria. I hope everyone's learned that lesson.

  • Aresen||

    Yeah, supporting the return of the Shah against Mossadegh worked out really well, didn't it?

  • Drake||

    We were correct to support the Afghans in the early 80's and the Northern Alliance a decade ago. Tied up the Soviets for years and helped bankrupt them - at very little expense of our own.

    Supporting the Northern Alliance was another cheap victory.

    Turning that cheap victory into a multi-decade nation building commitment was beyond retarded.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So supporting the mujahideen was the right move that just went horribly, horribly wrong a couple decades later? It's too bad there are no lessons to be learned from that.

  • Drake||

    Pretty weak - you could say the same about the Gulf War or Clinton not authorizing the CIA to kill Bin Laden in 1999.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Uh, no, because in one instance the president declined to kill a guy, and in anther instance the president supplied a guy with weapons, money, and training to kill other guys. Slight difference.

  • fried wylie||

    and helped bankrupt them

    Did we really need to exert ANY effort towards that inevitable outcome?

  • Drake||

    Yes - It might have happened eventually. We made it happen in 1990. I like the succinct way that David Goldman explains it.

    http://pjmedia.com/spengler/20.....out-china/

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    We made it happen in 1990.

    Actually it was through a combination of glasnost, perestroika, and economic contradictions within the USSR that brought them down. Gorbachev handled the first two, the command/control economy did the last.

  • hk||

    Communism was always bankrupt.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Obama is only demuring on Syria now because it's an election year. Whoever gets inaugurated in January will spend 2013 grimly approving a list of border crossings, weddings, and elementary schools that must be obliterated in the name of freedom.

  • Aresen||

    If the polls start looking bad for Barry in September or October, don't be surprised if he decides to wag the dog.

  • A Frayed Knot||

    You know, I can agree that the US shouldn't get directly involved with Syria, but the amount of pure unadulterated crap that Richman produces is unbelievable.

    Hey Sheldon, I challenge you to find that anti-nuke fatwa you mention. I bet you won't find it because it doesn't exist. In the meant time keep on sucking on some mullah cock, since that's about all you seem to be good at.

    Twat.

  • R C Dean||

    From what I gather, any mullah (and there are multitudes) can issue a fatwa on any damn thing he wants. That doesn't mean it matters.

  • hk||

    I don't think they're going to attack Israel anyway. You're missing the bigger point.

    Yeah rich is probably being a little naive, but overall I think his message is sound.

  • Alex the wolf||

    To claim that America is an empire is very unfair. Southeast Asia? You mean that US should apoligize to South Korea for not allowing communist utopia there? Latin America? The only country in Latin America where US couldn´t put its feet is still in the hands of the same tyrant after 50 years. Middle East? In the case of Egypt, some people in the left, and some "libertarians" claimed that America was to blame because Mubarak was almost totally controlled by the US. Now Asad is commiting mass murder in Syria and all you have to say is how bad America and Israel are. (By the way, the only Syrians who are safe today are the ones in Israeli controlled Golan Heights)

  • hk||

    The US is an empire, tough fucking luck. It should be our job to criticize the waste of tax payer dollars, not encourage your bullshit wars.

    It is convenient of you to forget how we propped up the KMT, and the Communist Party. Also those sanctions we put on North Korea haven't turned out that fucking well have they?

    Perhaps we should treat Korea the way we treat China, without violent threats and sanctions, genius.

    And the US is a joke in Latin American, having murdered probably a million Cubans and countless others if you look at our embargoes, drug wars, random musings, etc.

    Egypt is an unmitigated disaster. It became a theocracy run by tyrants after Mubarak was replaced.

  • hk||

    The point of the article is that the Public Sector is incompetent, not that we should like our enemies.

  • leren riem||

    the U.S. government. Just to indicate how murky things are, al-Qaeda and Hamas—two groups the U.S. government is hardly fond of—support the rebels. Rebellions make for strange bedfellows. If the Taliban were to announce its opposition to al-Assad, the irony would be complete.

  • Alex the wolf||

    Well the article doesn´t talk about taxes, but I can assure you that I dislike taxes and public spending as much as you.
    The article does mention American "imperialism". What imperialism? America literally saved South Korea from becoming a communist dictatorship like their northern fellows. Just let me ask you, would it be ok with you if NK decides to become a world exporter of nukes? And you claim that America murdered millions of Cubans? Where, in your dreams? Any country has the right to trade or not to trade with any other country it wishes. There is no blockade, Cuba can trade with all the other nations in the world. The only problem is that there is nothing to trade with, save for the five star hotels for foreigners, because the ruling elite take anything they want in the name of the common good.

  • 35N4P2BYY||

    I really don't have any other word to describe The United States foreign policy since Teddy Roosevelt but imperialism. Regardless of weather we are toppling governments to spread freedom or stop the advance of the Reds we are still toppling governments. The fallout from these utilitarian strategic moves have and will always have consequences well beyond what even the smartest policy wonks could ever foresee. Even a shallow understanding of history should see how these moves always play out badly, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, none of these "facilitated" regime changes have ended well for U.S. or the residents that we came to save.

    I would point out that the two remaining Marxist regimes are also the two countries that we have comprehensive embargoes with. Coincidence?

  • hk||

    Like I said you've got Jack, I've got Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China. And "turning" a communist country into a capitalist one isn't cheap, Socialist.

    You can't be a Libertarian and also a Proectionist. A centrally managed economy is the antithesis of freedom and success anyway.

    I don't give a fuck what you supposedly think about taxes either, it is clear to me you're a Socialist. Just like the neocons out there that are fake Capitalists, you're all the same to me.

    Private business owners determine who they trade and not trade with. Not the government. And embargoes kill poor, young, and old people in Cuba.

  • hk||

    With your logic why haven't we invaded China yet and saved them from communism? I wonder why China is friendlier to us than North Korea?

    And why did China turn Communist in the first place anyway?

    That's what I thought bruh.

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    rfront near Mr. Romney, said that a police officer had asked him, on a weekend when the candidate was in town, to report any pot smoking on the beach. The officer explained to him that “your neighbors have complained,” Mr. Quint reca

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    The concern is that further militarization of the situation in Syria could lead to greater chaos, could make it harder to achieve the political transition that the Syrian people deserve. The nature and shape of and membership of the opposition are still something that we and our partners are assessing....

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    The issue appears to be a recurring nuisance for the Romneys. Mr. Quint, who lives on the waterfront near Mr. Romney, said that a police officer had asked him, on a weekend when the candidate was in town, to report any pot smoking on the beach. The officer explained to him that “your neighbors have complained,” Mr. Quint recalled. “He was pretty clear that it was the Romneys.”

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