Nothing But Blood in Syrian Intervention for U.S.

The Obama administration doesn't understand what the average citizen does: Stay out of the Middle East.

The American people, chastened by the long Iraq entanglement, oppose another intervention, but the lesson has been lost of the leadership class.

A "red line" has been crossed, deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told the media last week: U.S. intelligence has determined with "high certainty" that the Bashar al-Assad regime used sarin gas against Syrian rebel forces.

Assad denies the charge, but we're told that blood samples from multiple Syrians test positive for the nerve agent, and that perhaps 150 people have died from the attacks in a civil war that's claimed some 90,000 victims thus far.

"The president has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has," Rhodes declared. So the Central Intelligence Agency will begin funneling military aid, starting with small arms and ammunition, to elements of the Syrian Opposition Coalition we think we can trust.

I may be one of those "cynics" President Obama has warned our impressionable young people about, but when I hear the White House telling us we should get embroiled in yet another Middle Eastern conflagration based on "high certainty" about WMD, I start backing slowly toward the door.

"He gassed his own people" sounds all too familiar. (Also, is it really a "Weapon of Mass Destruction" if you have to wait for the bloodwork to figure out whether it was used?)

The polls show overwhelming opposition toward intervening in the Syrian Civil War. The American people seem to have learned something from our fruitless, decade-plus Iraq entanglement, but the leadership class, apparently, has not. So it's once more into the breach -- gingerly, this time. Trust us.

Sorry -- no. What in the world are we trying to achieve here?

The rebels insist that light weapons won't turn the tide: "They should help us with real weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft, and with armored vehicles, training, and a no-fly zone," says a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. Senators John McCain, R-AZ, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, the Bobbsey Twins of knee-jerk interventionism, favor the latter.

The Pentagon brass is much less gung-ho: "I don't think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome" Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in March.

We're asked to believe that our intelligence is good enough to allow us to distinguish "good" rebels from bad. But as Milton Bearden, who ran the CIA's covert aid to the Afghan mujahideen in the late '80s, explained to Foreign Policy magazine, "once you begin arming any rebellion that involves fractious parties in the same rebellion against a common enemy, you've got to understand that the materials you give to the group of your choice will be sold, traded, bartered to most of the other players."

The Congressional Research Service reports that "Sunni extremist groups seem increasingly active in Syria, including groups sympathetic to or affiliated with Al Qaeda," and, as General Dempsey notes, we have, at best, a "very opaque understanding of the opposition."

A gruesome video that went viral last month gives some sense of the nature of the conflict the Obama administration aims to join. It features a Syrian rebel announcing "I swear to God we will eat your hearts out, you soldiers of Bashar. You dogs. God is greater!"--as he cuts out the heart of a dead enemy and takes a bite.

No doubt we'll have a rigorous review process to ensure that, while we're winning hearts and minds, we won't give weapons to rebels who eat hearts. But, as Bearden puts it, "once we start providing anything to the rebels, we better understand that if they win, we own it"--so perhaps we'd do better to sit this one out.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Drake||

    Have we figured out yet if there are any good guys in this fight?

  • Rich||

    Hey, what are *we*, chopped liver?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes. Iceland.

  • Killazontherun||

    Hey, you can't fathom the complexities of Syrian policy unless you have been in the philosopher king node situation room.

    Article is hilarious. He's trying to convince his base he is the reasonable guy keeping the warhawks in line instead of being the prime actor behind the escalation himself.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Obama says "I'm not Dick Cheney"

    No, Mr. President, Cheney was intelligent and evil.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Cheney was more machine than man.

  • John Galt||

    Maybe he was simple making a reference to the rumor that Cheney doesn't sit down to pee.

  • Ron||

    and Nixon is not a crook.

  • ||

    Isn't that boogeyman getting stale?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Dude, they've been throwing the terrierism boogeyman around for 11 years now.

  • ||

    I meant Cheney, but it could apply to all the stale boogeymen they employ daily.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's what I'm saying, moron. They will never retire any boogeyman, no matter how tattered and threadbare it is. They still raise the specter of slavery and secession when we talk about States' rights.

  • ||

    You know, Hugh, it kind of turns me on when you call me a moron. Do it again!

  • John Galt||

    Hollywood was throwing it around for years before eleven years ago. And you know how anything the pols see in movies they have to end up trying for themselves.

  • juris imprudent||

    terrierism

    Now I understand why they shoot all of those dogs.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    “Even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, Congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it — despite all that, the public may not fully know. The public may not fully know. And that can make the public kind of nervous, right?”

    In a just world, the public would be descending on Washington with pitchforks and torches. And these "checks and balances"? Members of Congress (Keith Ellison being the most notable) not only claim that they were not "briefed" on the NSA program, but that they didn't have access to the information, and even if they were briefed or could access the information, it is classified. Second, the "courts" aren't overseeing the NSA program, "a court" is; a secret court that no one in the public can read the decisions of.

    I'm not even sure that if some bold member of Congress had the gall to stand up and read the NSA PRISM program's dirty secrets on the record, that the statists wouldn't do everything in their power to at least expel them, if not prosecute them from treason/espionage (See: Robert LaFollete).

  • Ron||

    I wonder if the briefing was like the briefing for, I think it was fast and furious, when they allowed all congress members only three hours to share a single copy of the DOJ emails on a holiday when no one was around. and they were not allowed to make copies.

  • Jordan||

    I can't decide if we should support the guys who beheaded a 14 year old for insulting Mohammad, the guys who ate an enemy soldier's heart, or the guys who used chemical weapons*.

    * Probably a bullshit lie cooked up by Obusha.

  • Drake||

    I say all or none. If we play this right, maybe they will completely exterminate each other.

  • Brett L||

    Why don't we do the "Fistful of Dollars" strategy more often?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Michelle doesn't like when you laugh at her.

  • John Galt||

    Maybe if we do nothing at all they'll mostly exterminate each other.

  • fredtyg||

    Probably a bullshit lie cooked up by Obusha.

    No. What most don't seem to consider is that is was that chemical was more likely a fabrication by either the rebels, Israel or elements within the western camp that are desperate for us to intervene.

    As far as Obama goes, I'll give him some credit. The pressure on him to intervene must be enormous. He's done a fairly good job of saying no, until recently. To hear Mitt Romney tell it, we'd have been bombing both Syria and Iran by now.

    Looks like Obama is finally ceding to the siren song of the War Party, but he still seems reluctant to get involved. My guess is the pressure on him is just too strong.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Horseshit. Barry is dying for either a "wag the dog" event to distract from the criminality of his regime or some political victory he can wave around and his media allies can trumpet for all to hear.

  • RickC||

    Bullshit. The part about Obama and pressure.

  • Anders||

    "Sorry -- no. What in the world are we trying to achieve here?"

    I'm still trying to work out what we were trying to achieve in Stan and Iraq.

    In Stan we helped relocate AQ to several other countries. So we were like a very expensive moving service. We do however support a heroin dealing corrupt leader there who totally loves us.

    In Raq we got rid of Saddam because he won some kind of what? Publishers Sweepsteaks prize?

  • sarcasmic||

    Lucrative defense contracts.

  • Doctor Whom||

    When politicians want to give tax money to their cronies, I wish they'd just give tax money to their cronies. It would be a heck of a lot more cost-effective.

  • Hopfiend||

    You have to create some inventory velocity in the ordnance product line somehow.

  • Doctor Whom||

    We also increased Iran's sphere of influence. Um ... yay, hooray?

  • Drake||

    I thought Iran was buddies with Assad? Or are they playing both sides of this thing?

  • BakedPenguin||

    I think he meant in Iraq.

  • mtrueman||

    "what we were trying to achieve in Stan and Iraq."

    Don't know what we were trying for, but have you checked the price of oil or the profits of the producers since the Iraq invasion?

    "We do however support a heroin dealing corrupt leader there who totally loves us."

    I'm curious why Obama gets a free pass at the enormous heroin trade that has revived since the US invasion. When was the last time Obama or his predecessor prosecuted any of the US banks for their involvement in laundering billions in narcotics proceeds? I'm pretty sure it's never, and yet we all know that the bankers were among the very top contributors to his campaign.

    "who totally loves us"

    Formulating policy around the expectation of garnering the love of foreign puppets will always lead to the heart break of pathetic one sided affairs.

  • Anders||

    But hey, at least we got OBL after 20 years.

    A guy living in a shit hole who was so scared stiff he had to change his Depends every hour.

  • Brandon||

    Tough. Obama needs another distraction. We're going.

  • Dibbler||

    How are we supposed to fight the terrorists if we don't arm them? Contra 2.0 is absolutely necessary for the defense of our freedoms.

  • Killazontherun||

    Either we help the Contras Syrian rebels now or we'll have no one to fight to send troops in later.

  • ChrisO||

    Hey, Damascus is only about 6,000 miles from Harlingen, Texas. They could be on our doorstep, tomorrow.

  • Tman||

    There were really never any decent options in Syria due to the Hezbollah/Iran factor. And now there are just a host of terrible options.

    "The only winning move is not to play"

  • tarran||

    I would argue that staying away *is* a decent option.

  • Tman||

    There is a breaking point though, and I would argue that if this spills over in to the Golan heights and Hezbollah starts lobbing mustard gas shells at Israel things will get very ugly in the entire region very quickly.

    There is an argument to be made to prevent this from happening, but I agree that there is not reasonable option for how one would go about this.

  • T||

    If it comes down to that, tell the Israelis we won't stop interfere with them from doing what they have to do. Problem solves itself, then.

  • Brett L||

    Israel can sort them out again, same as the last 4 times they tried anything.

  • Drake||

    The Israelies already gave Assad a couple of TNT wake-up calls. They can take of themselves.

    If Assad was dumb enough to start a war with Israel, they would just cripple his military and let the rebels win by default.

  • Tman||

    That sounds great, except the "rebels" are made up of a variety of groups, some of whom would like nothing better than to lob some mustard gas shells over the Sea of Galilee.

    Israel could easily tip the scales one way or another in Syria but they realize as most people do that there is no guarantee that things will improve in the region if Assad is gone.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Again, not the United States's problem. And again, Israel is more than capable of taking care of it. Especially on the billion or so USD they receive per year.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Golan Heights? ::checks map:: Nope, not in America. Still not America's problem.

  • mtrueman||

    I don't we appreciate the restraint of a thuggish outfit like Hezbollah. Or their success in thwarting Israeli incursions.

    It may surprise you to learn that thugs who are willing to sustain casualties have what it takes to win wars. Hex is a fine example, and check out how the Red Army fared in Stalingrad in that dust up between the Germans and Soviets.

    I've noted this before in these pages, but it's a curious and paradoxical fact that democratic militarys like Israel are responsible for more civilian (collateral damage) casualties than there non democratic opponents. Democracies can't bear to sustain casualties among troops expected to vote in the next election and will not hesitate to put foreign civilians at risk in order to limit casualties on their own side. Outfits like Hex are not subject to this and if you look at the facts and figures, you will see that Hex killed fewer Israeli civilians, both absolutely and relatively compared to military casualties inflicted than Israel killed Lebanese.

  • ||

    it's a curious and paradoxical fact that democratic militarys like Israel are responsible for more civilian (collateral damage) casualties than there non democratic opponents.

    [citation needed]

    I'd be fairly astonished if that holds true at all, or if it does within an extremely small sample, that it holds true generally throughout history.

  • Redmanfms||

    [citation needed]

    Good luck with that, mtrueman isn't real keen on providing support for any of his claims.

    I'd be fairly astonished if that holds true at all, or if it does within an extremely small sample, that it holds true generally throughout history.

    mtrueman is full of shit. He posts ridiculous things like this hoping to get a rise out of the commentariat so that he can indulge in a tautological, circular debate.

    He's a troll.

  • T||

    Can we at least keep the place this time? If we're gonna go full stupid, let's just keep the joint.

  • ||

    No, of course not. We do "empire" in the maximally retarded way. We shouldn't do it at all, but instead of going in and at least taking over the place, calming it down, and exploiting it, we just shovel lives and money into it. Genius!

  • Brett L||

    at least taking over the place, calming it down, and exploiting it

    I think you need to be able to crucify indiscriminately and sell other trouble-makers into slavery for that to work.

  • ||

    I'm not opposed to that. It's better than world cop.

  • Raven Nation||

    Yeah, whatever you think of the Brits in the 19th century at least they hung on to, and (probably) made money off of all the places they occupied.

  • Gray Ghost||

    IIRC, the only one of their colonies that turned a profit after we gave them the heave-ho was India.

    Are empires and republics compatible? Can a country successfully be both at the same time?

  • RickC||

    No.

  • Redmanfms||

    No.

    Rome was a Republic for over 500 years and occupied a lot of territory that wasn't "Roman" for 200+ of that 500 years.

    Not that I think we should go that way.

  • ChrisO||

    At least Iraq had oil, and therefore something worth controlling.

    All Syria has is date farms.

  • Drake||

    What the fuck would we want with Syria? First of all it's full of Syrians - do you realize what a pain in the ass it would be to empty it? Then we would have to clean up the mess they left behind...

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    What US interests are at stake here?

  • Drake||

    Is it interest or boredom? No coincidence that this is happening a week after the Game of Thrones season finale.

  • albo||

    Middle East goes blooie, it affects oil and the global economy.

    Plus someone could get pissed and take a punch at Israel, and they're primed and ready to turn as many Arabs into charred lumps as they have to at this point. That starts an even bigger war.

    We're the only sober person at the global bar who's packing, so we get the task of breaking up fights.

  • A Frayed Knot||

    I say we turn it into the Hunger Games. Drop arms caches throughout the country, announce it to both sides and watch them kill each other as they try to obtain the arms.

  • Raven Nation||

    Hmm, is it a sign that I'm getting jaded that I actually think this is great (& funny) idea.

  • albo||

    Small arms they have. We should fly a few wings of fully-loaded A-10s over there and leave them running while we "just pop into the store for a pack of smokes." See what happens.

  • Ron||

    I read someone elses comment where they suggested having live cameras attached to every gun so that we can watch the fighting instead of the Kardashians.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yeah, the dumb old public doesn't like this idea one bit, but from the standpoint of the leadership classes, Obama is some kind of reluctant dove and McCain/Lindsay are the opposition who think Obama should be doing *more.* They think Obama is basically a peacenik for only giving small arms.

    And we think that we can limit aid to the non-heart-eating, non-headchopping group among the rebels, without (a) the arms ending in the hands of the heart-gobbling beheaders anyway, and/or (b) the cannibalistic decapitators getting increased influence in the country.

    Hasn't the jihadi crowd pulled the football away enough times for us to be worried? They start by fighting an authoritarian government, and we hear the Sounds of Freedom. Then when the evil authoritarians are overthrown, we suddenly realize that "allahu akbar" *doesn't* mean "civil liberties for everyone!"

  • Pro Libertate||

    I suppose one option would be to sell nukes to both sides. For some huge price, to help reduce the deficit. Not moral, no, but we're not so concerned about such things.

  • ||

    Not moral, no, but we're not so concerned about such things.

    I don't know why selling nuclear arms would be any more or less immoral than selling guns and knives, or for that matter fast food to fatties and drugs to junkies, all of which we support. A merchant shouldn't bear any liability, material or moral, for the irresponsibility of his customer.

  • Raven Nation||

    Plus McCain seems to have some kind of weird affinity for Obama. I think he would have loved to have been O's veep pick in 2008.

  • LynchPin1477||

    They think Obama is basically a peacenik for only giving small arms.

    Hey, they gave him a Nobel Peace Prize! Show some respect!

  • Lord Humungus||

    I really don't like watching Obama at all, but I remember in the 80s-90s that if America was going to start using force/go to war/or any other minor militart venture, the President would make a speech from the Oval Office.

    Does this still happen? I don't remember W doing it that often - or if at all.

  • Killazontherun||

    Seeing less of presidents on television broadcast media has been one of the more substantial improvements in our lives from the Reagan and Bush I era where it was expected of our families to hunker down four times a year to listen to the latest mutterings of the Dear Leader during prime time.

  • ||

    Bush announced the invasion of Iraq from the oval office. Or at least I think it was the oval office. He was behind a desk with a flag and a serious look on his face. It pretty well conformed to the historical tradition.

  • mr simple||

    Considering Iran is about to send in troops, another Russian ally, this does provide the perfect opportunity for another proxy war. We (the feds) have been wanting to go after Iran for awhile and never trusted the Russians, anyway.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yay, a proxy war with Iran and Russia!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Do these rebels at least eat their enemies' hearts with fava beans and a nice Chianti?

  • mr simple||

    These animals drink Shiraz!

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    THOSE MONSTERS!

  • Bill Dalasio||

    One point I don't see getting much press anywhere (even here). Russia ia a long-standing ally of the Assads. China is committing significant resources as well. How do we not think we're upping the ante with these guys by intervening.

  • RickC||

    I asked this the other day on another thread. Didn't Putin already send missles to Assad? Are we ramping up a new proxy war with them and China? Not much being said about that angle in this article or any others I've read on U.S. intervention.

  • Jon Lester||

    Putin has plainly said that there are criminals and organ-eaters in the opposition, and has told Israel directly that a post-Assad Sunni regime would be worse for everyone. Sounds to me like he's the more rational actor here. As for his arming Assad, that's just business; our arming of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the rest of the GCC member states isn't exactly something to be proud of, itself.

  • cw||

    "I swear to God we will eat your hearts out, you soldiers of Bashar. You dogs. God is greater!"--as he cuts out the heart of a dead enemy and takes a bite.

    Clearly the rebel meant the metaphorical phrase, but took it a little too far when he literally ate the heart out.

  • Tim||

    You were expecting "KILL THE WABBIT!"?

  • Anders||

    No, it is their culture and you'd better respect it or Hillary will sit on your face.

  • RickC||

    Nice picture. I'd rather she spit in my face, which was my first take glancing over your comment.

  • albo||

    This is just another brushfire in the coming conflagration that will be Shia v. Sunni. We're just collateral. But when the flames start licking around our property, we gotta do something. Do we send a meek letter or pull out the shotgun and start blowing off heads?

    *wipes hands*
    *done with metaphors today*

  • phandaal||

    The idea that we need to control the entire planet in order to be safe is as bogus now as it always has been.

  • Drake||

    Let them have at it.

  • Homple||

    The best argument for not intervening in Syria, is that there is no argument FOR intervening that would convince a sane person to go ahead with it.

  • davislisa01||

    my roomate's mom makes $74/hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for eight months but last month her check was $18600 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site... www.CNN13.com

  • space junk||

    So I guess we will be moving assets out of Afghanistan and straight over to Syria? I can imagine some budget weenie from the Administration telling us that it will keeps costs low for this 'Military Assistance'. This is lame. Let those people kill each other. We dont need to be involved in it.

  • owen||

    everyone are intered in jerseys can feel free to
    http://mallsjersey.blogspot.com/ to us or go to our shop
    http://modernjerseys.org/ to know about jerseys details.
    1,nfl nike jerseys 1=22$,5=21$
    2,nhl jerseys 1=33.79$,5=32.9$
    3,mlb jerseys 1=17.3$/pcs,5=16.5$
    4,nba jerseys 1=19$,5=18.5$
    5,ncaa jerseys 1=17.3$,5=16.5$
    6,soccer jerseys 21$/pcs
    and other items price here.

  • owen||

    welcome to http://modernjerseys.org/. We are specialized in high quanlity jerseys
    we are a wholesaler and a retailer for selling NFL MLB NBA NHL Women Youth Jerseys, free shipping,fast delivery, http://mallsjersey.blogspot.com/
    if you have any questions or needs . we will do our best service for you.
    thanks in advance.

  • ||

    The American people seem to have learned http://www.articlesnatch.com/A.....cKjH9JhB-s something from our fruitless, decade-plus Iraq entanglement, but the leadership class, apparently, has not. So it's once more into the breach -- gingerly, this time. Trust us.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement