I hadn’t planned on weighing in on Syria, even though it seems everyone else has in the media blitz surrounding the speculation of “will we or won’t we?” But as I sit here on a late summer day, watching the second week of college football (in which my beloved Virginia Cavaliers got annihilated by the Oregon Ducks like Georgia did in General Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea), it’s time to lob my opinion in like Tim Tebow tossing a hand grenade.
Nobody in their right state of mind wants another war. Other than the defense industry and the politicians they’ve bought, some bleeding heart liberals, John McCain, and the radical Christian fundamentalists who think another Middle East conflict will possibly initiate the return of Jesus, America has worn themselves out on delivering freedom at the end of a 5.56mm round for now. That’s not to say, as we get further away from the mistake of the Iraq War and a slowing of flag-draped coffins exiting the back of a C-130 in a cold Delaware sunrise, that we won’t forget the lessons of all the conflicts we’ve inserted ourselves in over the years.
We haven’t had a “just war” since World War II, and even then we had to be allies with Stalin to defeat Hitler. In Syria, there’s no obvious lesser of two evils, but by golly there’s people rebelling against the government. That’s where our problem lies. We have a two fold obsession in this country which is comprised of propping up the opposition to whomever Russia decides to back and overthrowing people we see as dictators — only to more often than not replace them with new dictators.
We are a country that was formed by breaking away from a monarchy that we believed to be tyrannical. From the Battles of Lexington and Concord to the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a lot of blood was spilled to create this country — and we have never forgotten that rebellious nature which manifests itself to this day in our foreign policy. America went from an upstart band of plantation owners and backwoods settlers to the greatest superpower the world has probably ever known. We traded flintlock Kentucky rifles for M4s, 10 inch howitzers for cruise missiles, and asserted our personal desire for freedom with the borderline obsessive need to dictate our brand of democracy across the globe.
“Damn the costs! These people need democracy! A McDonald’s and a Wal-Mart in every town, and a Starbucks on every corner!” I don’t think any of our Founding Fathers would have even dreamed that the little upstart country they put together would go from defying the world’s superpower at that time, to becoming the world’s superpower in our time. Perhaps since then we’ve had this misguided notion that just because France joined our side in 1778 after Saratoga, that we have the obligation to do the same on the behalf of seemingly every uprising ever since. It’s as if we’re that drunken guy in the bar who went from the high school dork to success and now we have to keep buying everyone a round, even as we max out the credit card doing it.
So, Syria. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Our politicians who are still in the Cold War mentality and still remember the elementary school nuclear war drills want us to intervene on the behalf of the rebels. Toss them in with well-meaning liberals who want us to send in the military every time citizens are slaughtered, and the defense industry which is selling the weapons, and we have the recipe for an Armageddon that Bible-thumping, snake-handling preachers in Appalachia have been dreaming of.
What is the answer? The sad thing is there is no answer, but if we intervene, we interfere in the bloody and painful correction of centuries of imperialism in the Middle East. If Assad falls, we could very well go from a state that is quietly hostile to Israel to one that doesn’t mind using the chemical weapons we missed, and rains them down across Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, or even other Arab countries. Even if moderate interests prevail, they won’t do so without then battling it out in a second civil war against the Islamic fundamentalists who are also fighting Assad.
No matter what we do, we’re going to be the bad guy. We were welcomed as heroes in Iraq, but once we toppled the statue of Hussein, they wanted us gone so they could settle scores between Sunni and Shiite. We supported the muhajideen in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, only to fight them after 9/11. This intervention after intervention simply cannot continue. While I sympathize with the families of those who have been gassed by Assad, this cannot be our fight. I understand that Obama wants to uphold the Geneva Convention’s rule against chemical weapons, but when everyone else seems to be unapologetically disinterested in enforcing it, it’s time to take our football and go home.
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