Saturday, August 25, 2012

Syria, what to do?

Just as many of you have been doing, I have been following events in Syria with interest. Last month I wrote a blog predicting (correctly, of course) that in spite of their claims to the contrary, Russia and Iran would double down on their support for Assad. It is clear that they are both now providing arms, ammunition and training to the little dictator -and Syrian rebels have captured Iranian "soldiers" in fighting on several occasions.

The two sides, pro and anti Assad, have been very clearly drawn -but competing interests have muddied the water (as usually happens in a civil war). In this case we have the Russians, whose primary interest is keeping a foot hold in the region and competing with the U.S. for influence. There is Iran, who sees Syria as a 'must keep' in their desire to become the leaders of the Arab world and as a direct link for supplying and controlling Hamas and Hezbolah, both of which are surrogates in the world wide terrorism campaign and in fighting Israel. Then there is Turkey, who would dearly like to see a friendly Syrian government as more of a trading partner and less as a safe haven for Kurdish and Armenian "freedom fighters" -and as a way of replacing Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia sees the conflict as important in removing Syria's Shia population from control in the area where the majority of the population is Sunni (a way of keeping Iran in check).

On the other side, we have Israel, who believes that anything that reduces Iranian power and influence is a good thing. We have NATO, whose interest is founded in being basically anti-Iranian and who would like to see some stability in the region. Then, of course, we have the United States, who seems to believe that democracy should always prevail -regardless of the consequences.

In the meanwhile the real victims of all this are the Syrian people. They are being killed by the thousands, with hundreds of thousands more fleeing to become refugees living in abstract poverty. I think the rebels would have given up by now and accepted a few token political changes by the regime in the name of peace -but they have been armed and encouraged by all these outside influences. A large number of rebels fighting in the streets are no longer even Syrians -they are "freedom fighters" from Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen -even Al Qeada has a hand in the fighting. And the longer this "proxy war" continues with neither side gaining a clear upper hand, the longer the misery and death will continue. The refugee camps will become, as they have in every other case in the Middle East, breeding grounds for terrorists whose only desire is to strike out, using religion or politics or any other excuse to "get even" (with whom is not all that important).

So, what do we do? What should we do? There are those who say we should do nothing, it is a Middle East (Muslim) problem -let them sort it out. There are those who say we can not afford to stay out of it. We should go in, flags flying, and bring an end to the conflict, forcing Assad out at gun point. When I hear comments like those, I can not help but ask a simple question. How has that worked out for us in the past? How did it go for us in Iraq? Or ln Afghanistan?

A step down from actually "putting boots on the ground" would be arming the rebels. But, is that a good idea? Giving weapons to groups like Al Qeada -and training the fighters in their use- sounds kind of, well, stupid. Am I wrong?

So, again, what do we do? I ask again because I don't know. I have not got a clue. There does not seem to be any good options. I am certain, however, that whatever happens, Assad will fall. That may be next week, or next month, or next year. But he will fall. And when that happens it will be a serious set back for boh Russia and Iran. If we do not become involved assisting the rebels, we will lose influence in the region, probably in favor of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But, is that really such a terrible thing? Is the cost of maintaining influence worth the inevitable price our taxpayers and service members will have to pay? The answers to those questions fall way above my pay grade. They will have to be left to our politicians to sort out (a comforting thought all by itself).

Some one once said that "In a war, no one ever wins. They just lose less." I think that, in this case, those words were never truer.

Live Long and Prosper....

No comments: