As the U.S. prepares to launch a military intervention in Syria, one must hope that it will not be pulled into a full-blown war with unpredictable consequences.
Intervention in Syria: Will it really help? Photo: Reuters
Twelve years after the U.S. launched its “war on terror,” international terrorism is yet to be vanquished. One reason for this is that the United States, assisted by its numerous allies and partners, on the one hand, fight against terrorism and on the other - encourage terrorism by the power overthrow of the disagreeable governments.
With the exception of the removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, subsequent use of force by the U.S. has occurred on rather convoluted pretexts. Take the examples of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs or Muammar Qaddafi’s aerial bombing of civilians. In the former case, no WMDs were ever found, the lawful government was toppled and the country sank into a quagmire of perpetual instability. Terrorist attacks are killing up to 500 Iraqis every month, yet few in the West care. In the case of Libya, the alleged evidence was never confirmed either. “Dictator” Qaddafi was deposed and murdered but the Islamists that replaced him at the helm under democratic slogans are yet to bring peace or prosperity to the country, which has effectively disintegrated into multiple fiefdoms.
Now it is the turn of Syria, whose national army has gone on an offensive against numerous mercenaries and other radicals generously paid for by the Gulf monarchies. It turns out that the “bloody dictator” Assad enjoys widespread support among the Syrians and could conceivably win a future presidential election – something Washington just cannot let happen. A convenient pretext has been found: the mass killing of civilians as a result of a chemical attack on the night of August 21 in Damascus’s Guta suburb.
Immediately, and without any international investigation, Assad was accused of using WMDs – something the West believes requires an adequate response. The way to respond has been found too: a limited-scope U.S. military strike against Syria. Yet, the number of targets for such a strike is excessive (50 and counting) and includes, among other things, Syria’s entire air defense system, which, of course, has nothing to do other than to protect chemical weapons and delivery systems. The military operation has been authorized to last for up to three months, a period that is quite sufficient to topple Assad by force, first by conducting numerous missile and bomb strikes and then taking Syrian airspace under full control for the benefit of the armed opposition.
This time around, the United States has failed to secure even a semblance of international legitimacy. Not only the UN Security Council and NATO, but also the Arab League, have refused to support its impending military action. Under the circumstances, most Americans oppose a war in Syria, while many Europeans demand a postponement until UN chemical weapons investigators present their findings to the Security Council.
Granted, any results of a chemical attack are open to various interpretations. But preparing for a military strike against Damascus requires additional time, for example to reposition aerial and naval means of attack. Why not postpone the operation for two or three weeks? Only because there is a possibility that evidence linking Syrian rebels to the attack might surface in the meantime. That is why President Obama has decided not to wait for the results of the international investigation. Yet, mindful of the potentially harmful consequences, he has shared his responsibility with the U.S. Congress.
President Barack Obama is running short of time. Owing to domestic political considerations, he badly needs to emerge as a strong leader capable of defending U.S. national interests. But how can he avoid being sucked into a full-blown war with unpredictable consequences? How to avoid a regional humanitarian catastrophe, if, even now, the refugees number over two million? Finally, how to ensure the security of Israel, the only U.S. ally in the Middle East, during such a military operation? As a result, President Obama has to choose the best of a bad lot of options.
Perhaps for the first time in recent decades, the United States finds itself in political isolation. France, and possibly Turkey and the Gulf monarchies, will take part in the Syrian adventure. But the Americans will have to fight side by side with Al-Qaeda, represented, among others, by the radical organization Jabhat an-Nusrah. It is not the amorphous Free Syrian Army but Al-Qaeda, actively assisted by the U.S., which will try to grab power in Damascus. Washington does not seem to grasp that terrorists cannot be “domesticated”.
The U.S.’s readiness to bankroll a Syrian war with the Gulf monarchies’ money is cause for grave concern. By accepting such aid, Washington – in defiance of common sense – will have to defend the national interests of others. One tends to forget that the Saudis were the ideologists and financial sponsors of the 9/11 attacks.
Unfortunately, the Americans do not learn from their own mistakes. The desires to secure global leadership at all costs will only lead to an impasse and accelerate the waning of the U.S. political leadership in the world.
Of course, the Americans are strong enough to defeat the Syrian national army. But they will not be able to defeat the Syrians that will continue to fight even after losing Damascus. There will be no winners in this war. Everybody loses, including the United States.
It would make much more sense to stop and think not about ways to promote Western democracy by force but about making the world a more stable and predictable place. Only this, and not the might of its weapons, will allow the U.S. to regain its moral leadership in the world.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.