Sunday, April 29, 2012

How involved in Syria should the US be?

Syria is quite a problem. It seems that Assad just refuses to step down from power -which is not at all surprising. What dictator, after all, wants to voluntarily relinquish power? Plus, he has seen the fate of many of his predecessors such as Gaddafi who was beaten and shot as soon as he was captured. Even those who stepped down relatively peacefully have not had it very well. Mubarak, in Egypt, who squirreled away billions of dollars, let go of power anticipating a luxurious retirement but, instead, now faces possible execution along with members of his family and his 'inner circle'. No, there is not much incentive for Assad to voluntarily step down. 

So, the question becomes how to achieve regime change and -if the Untied States is convinced that is what is right and necessary for the Syrian people and the rest of the world, what kind of assistance and how much assistance could and should the US supply? 

There are several opinions about this within our political leadership and they very widely. Some Congressmen and Senators say we should not get involved at all -and some are calling for arming the rebels and instituting a 'no-fly' zone similar to what we did in Libya. The President has taken a kind of "middle of the road' approach (not surprising) condemning Syria for atrocities against it's people and sending 'non-lethal' supplies to the rebels (food, medical and communications equipment), but stopping short of sending arms -and, at the same time, being careful to assure the American people that we will not put 'boots on the ground' over there.  It does not look to me as though President Assad is going anywhere very soon, in spite of the rebellion and the West's calls for his departure. 

Assad has several advantages that other dictators in the Middle East did not enjoy. First of all, his country is located in a place that makes military intervention (even a 'no-fly' zone) much more difficult than in other countries. He also has Iran and Russia on his side, both of whom have been sending direct military assistance to him, including arms, ammunition and "boots on the ground" for "training purposes". Add to that the fact that Assad has a much larger, more experienced and better trained military -including a large and relatively modern Air Force and, well, he ain't going to feel inclined to take his chances on an early retirement. 

Then, there is that sticky problem regarding arming the rebels that always lays just under the surface. Who are the rebels and what are they likely to do if and when they take over? Are they going to really institute a democratic government, or turn Syria into another Islamic state hostile to Western interests? 

My problem with all of this is that I see no reason why the United States should get directly involved in any of this. Condemning the Assad government and sending non-lethal assistance is fine (and probably the right thing to do) but anything more could simply make matters even worse. As long as Assad enjoys direct military assistance from Iran and Russia, any attempt by us to get involved would just escalate the situation and Syria could easily become another "proxy war" -hurting, not helping, the Syrian people. Unless we were willing to unleash the unbridled power of the American military, a war there can not be won and an escalation would do nothing but create another Iraq or Afghanistan (potentially even nastier and bloodier)

The United States should not and can not disengage from the worlds problems and become isolationist. But, at the same time, we must learn to be much better at choosing where, when and how to engage. Involvement in Syria beyond diplomatic and humanitarian assistance is a 'loose-loose' situation for America which would cost a lot of money and probably lead to the loss of American lives. We have been down this road before -and, regardless of any promises made by the rebels now, in the end, it would be far more likely to gain us nothing but another Middle Eastern country that would be, at best, hostile to America and not very supportive of our interests in the region. 

OK, now I have had my 2 cents worth on Syria -except to say clearly that Assad is a two-bite bloody dictator who should (and I and sure will) burn in hell. I hope he gets what is coming to him soon. I just do not believe it is America's job to pay the price for that to happen. We are not the world's policeman. We can not fix every problem or chase out every crummy dictator in every corner of the world. Syria is one place where it is best to stand back and not try to dominate the situation. 

And now -another dictatorship in the news: Did you see the North Koreans parading their latest missiles? Watch this You Tube Clip:


Live Long and Prosper.... 

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