No Matter What We Decide to Do With Syria — It’s a “No-Win” Situation

obama-syriaI had planned to write an article which openly stated my stance on the possibility of our military involvement in Syria.  I’ve listened to the arguments and I understand each stance — both the pro-military and anti-military involvement — people are making.

Then it struck me; no matter what we do, it’s not going to matter.  Because at the end of the day, no matter what we do, it’s a no-win situation.

If we decide to go in, we’ll be right.  A corrupt dictator has slaughtered over 120,000 of his people in the last 2+ years, and as the self-proclaimed “greatest country on earth,” how can we sit by and allow that to happen?  Especially when evidence is mounting that he’s repeatedly used chemical weapons.

And yes, the use of chemical weapons does change things.

If someone doesn’t step in, I promise you the bloodshed is going to get much worse.  When the death toll hits 500,000 and Assad is openly using chemical weapons weekly, will we then act?  Then at that point the question will be similar to what some have asked now, “Well, why did we wait?”

If we could have prevented the spread of chemical weapons attacks and expedited the end to this bloody civil war, why did we wait until tens (if not hundreds) of thousands more died before we decided to do anything?  I mean, isn’t that what quite a few are asking right now?

Whether or not you agree with it, if we do nothing, history will reflect on the United States as a country which knew chemical weapons were used against women and children—yet did nothing.

So if we go in, and we’re successful, we would have done the right thing.

However, if we don’t go in or act in any way, we’ll be right as well.  With that I mean, we aren’t the “world’s police.”  And while I sympathize with the tragedies going on in Syria, this county has a growing mound of our own problems to deal with.

Even when you step away from the humanitarian aspect of the whole situation, who’s to say our involvement will accomplish anything?  A “limited 90-day campaign” sounds nice for those who feel we need to do something, but don’t want another Iraq on our hands.

But what if a year from now we’re still talking about the civil war in Syria?   Do we call for more “limited 90-day campaigns?”  And if we keep authorizing strike after strike, then it’s no longer a “limited 90-day strike” — it becomes full-on military involvement in a civil war in which we really have no business being involved.

And say we do help remove Assad, who takes his place?  Who’s to say they won’t be just as bad, if not worse?  Doesn’t this bring up the cliché and controversial saying of, “The enemy you know is better than the enemy you don’t?”

How many of us have worked a job where we hated our boss, only to find them finally removed from their position, and replaced by—an even worse boss?

Let’s just be honest, what’s going on in Syria warrants our attention—but it’s simply none of our business.  If the U.N. wants to act, I’d back support with a strong coalition of global allies, but more or less “going it alone” just doesn’t seem like the best response to this situation.

As Elizabeth Warren brilliantly said, “Good intentions alone will not help us.  What Assad has done is reprehensible. It violates international law, and it violates the law of humanity.  But it is critically important that before we act that we have a plan, a goal and we have a reasonable way for ensuring that goal.  I think we’re now in a state of flux.”

As it stands now I see no goal or real plan.  I see a proposal and a hope—but neither of those constitute an answer to the point which Senator Warren emphasized and I absolutely agree with.

If we go in, we’ll be the United States standing up to a genocidal tyrant who used chemical weapons on his own people and needed to be removed from power.  But we’ll also be the United States meddling in the business of another country which it had no business getting involved in.

If we don’t go in we’ll be a country which sat by and allowed thousands of innocent people to die in a horrific civil war that’s currently spanned over 2 years (and shows no sign of ending), who did nothing when information came to light that the Syrian government used sarin gas to kill thousands of its own people.  But we’ll also have stayed out of a country in which we shouldn’t be getting involved in their affairs, and we’ll have possibly avoided getting into our third war in just over a decade.

Going to Syria “stands up” to countries like Russia and Iran which support Assad’s horrific regime; yet going into Syria also strains already tense relationships with these countries.  That tension could then lead to much larger problems later down the road.

Which is what I feel Senator Warren alluded to when she said “unintended consequences.”  What might our action, or inaction, eventually lead to that we haven’t even imagined yet?

And the truth seems, as it relates to Syria, no matter what we do we’ll be both the hero and the villain.

Because sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always the right thing to do.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • tom

    I didn’t neef a polysci degree to tell you this. I hate to say this but if you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t choose the option that costs you less.

    • Sam Knudson

      I agree with this though money is not the only “cost” to this.

  • Raff Webster

    I agree with most of what you’re saying, but there is one massive detail that is committed, and that isn’t being widely pubicized by mainstream media:

    The Leage of Arab States voted last week, overwhelmingly, on a resolution condemning chemical weapons, calling on the US and the world to intervene in Syria, and remove Assad from power, by all necessary means (i.e. mlitarily).

    Putin also stated openly a couple of days ago that if evidence of complicity by Assad’s regime were shown to him, that would “change everything.” And we know from the White House that said evidence consists of Assad-government wire-taps.

    So, the reality of the situation is in fact more complext than suggested, and the possible outcomes more diverse as well.

    • richardarcher

      Even here in the Middle East the Arab League vote was reported as being the unenthusiastic result of severe arm twisting by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And you should note that the resolution did not include any commitment for any Arab League member to participate in any action against Syria, even though all the member countries have well equipped, well trained military forces. The US, and to a slightly lesser degree the UK and France, are not viewed as the world’s policemen. We seem to be viewed as the world’s mercenaries by some countries who don’t appear to want to get their hands dirty taking care of the heads of countries they don’t like.

      • suburbancuurmudgeon

        So let the Arabs deal with it.

      • LL11

        Agree. I think there are a number of reasons they don’t want to. Cost is part of it, if they sit back and do nothing they can talk us into it and so lose nothing – no troops and no cost, and if/when things go wrong, it’s the US’s problem. They then can pretend they didn’t take sides.

  • richardarcher

    This article, like so any, has a flaw from the start in at the author accepts as given the administration’s position that the chemical attack was made by the Syrian government, although as yet, the only “evidence” supporting that position is intelligence reports from FSA factions, Israeli intelligence, and unnamed Saudi sources. Plus, the administration’s reported death count is higher than had been reported last week by medical sources.

    No argument from me that there was a chemical attack. The question is, by whom. The administration’s logic (or very wishful thinking) seems to be (1) Chemical attacks are bad things that only very bad people do. (2) Assad is a very bad guy we want to get rid of. (3) Assad has chemical weapons. (4) Assad was probably responsible for previous smaller chemical attacks. Therefore, Assad did this without question. How about this alternative logic, which the administration and the main stream media and most people supporting Obama either ignore or deliberately try to suppress. (1) Chemical attacks are bad things that only bad people do. (2) both Assad and al-Nusra & other jihad extremist rebel factions are bad people. (3) Assad has chemical weapons. (4) Al-Qaeda linked rebel factions have been found to have chemical weapons ( no one other than those factions knows how much and what type). (5) UN reports show both Assad and rebel factions were responsible for previous smaller scale chemical attacks. (6) Al-Qaeda linked and jihad extremists rebel factions have frequently attacked and slaughtered members of moderate rebel factions. (7) Rebel factions have the most to gain by pulling the US and other western powers into action against Assad. Therefore, either side could have used the chemical weapons and engaging without clear evidence in a knee jerk reaction that allows us to believe that we are “doing something” and allows our politicians to keep their egos and credibility intact is perhaps a really, really stupid move with a very high risk of adverse outcomes.

  • Darlene K TattooCritic

    One thing wrong with this story – Al Qaeda took rresponsibility 4 the chemical war fare

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      When and where?

    • Nancy Hall

      No they didn’t.

  • James Hardy

    You seem to be leaving out the fact that we knew about Israel using chemical weapons a few years ago, and did nothing. We knew when Saddam was using them a few years back and did nothing. When we use them, and yes we do use them, it doesn’t seem to bother us when it fits our interest. Besides directly defined “chemical” weapons, what do you think a bomb or a missile is? It is just a contained chemical reaction projected towards a more specific target. Civilians still die. Children still die. We all allow this to happen and we are completely full of it. This article garbage and also full of it.

  • Jim

    I still have seen no “proof” that Assad has done anything. In fact, the “opposition forces”~ ( terrorists) may have had their chemical weapons stash get blown up by Assads’ artillery, or they may have set it off to blame Assad, or ,or, or. Assad is a Socialist and that’s why our government wants him out, that and the pipleline. As far as us standing by and watching women and kids get gassed, you should check out the photo of Rummy shaking hands with Saddam back in 1988, while we knew he was using gas against the Kurdish civilians and the Iranians. We’re as clean as the driven snow in New York city the day after.

  • Heather Wilson

    “If we don’t go in we’ll be a country which sat by and allowed thousands of innocent people to die in a horrific civil war that’s currently spanned over 2 years (and shows no sign of ending), who did nothing when information came to light that the Syrian government used sarin gas to kill thousands of its own people. ”

    Just like every other country in the world.

    • Nancy Hall

      So…does this justify just sitting around and watching genocide?

      • Heather Wilson

        No, however, the United States is not the world police. I am married to a man who serves in the US military and my father is a veteran (28.5 years, three tours in Vietnam). They would agree it is time for us to keep our noses out of something for a change. If the UN were backing this, it might be another story. But they are not. We have our own horrible issues to deal with right here in the United States. We need to fix ourselves before we keep worrying about fixing the rest of the world. It hasn’t gotten us very far in the Middle East as it is.

  • Paul DuBois

    Well said. The only way we can win is by taking whatever funds might go towards a military action and instead investing all of them to help the refugees. By helping and taking care of those who have already fled we will be able to assist the host countries they have gone to(refugees are a major drain on services) and also build some good will with the host countries and the refugees. Yes it might encourage more refugees but that might reduce the number of innocents murdered(which should be our goal.) And creating a withdrawl plan for aid to a refugee camp is easier than exiting a civil war.

  • EightEx

    Its a win if we never go in. We can provide humanitarian aid but the US is in no place to add another war, we haven’t finished the last 2.

    • Nancy Hall

      Too easy. It will not be a win if we watch Assad slaughter innocents and do nothing. That’s the point of the article. We can’t win.

  • RJG

    let’s err on the side of caution and not let loose on a sovereign nation … as much as I detest Assad and his regime I think we are are better holding off for now.

  • gurukalehuru

    When in doubt, stay the hell out

  • Gabriel Gentile

    If Israel says we go, we’re going… Like the good little servants we are.