Friday, October 14, 2016

Syria: why the rush to action?


I note with concern that President Obama is to consider 'military and other options' in Syria today.  Some commenters have pressed for greater US military involvement there, possibly direct military action.  In response, Russia is battening down the hatches in a public display of belligerence and support for its allies in the region.

I can only ask:  what is the United States' compelling national interest in Syria?  I can't see one right now.  This isn't the Cold War any more, where the 'domino theory' predicated a military response to any threat (real or perceived) against any pro-democracy state.  Most of the parties involved in the fighting in Syria are as bad as all the rest.  Almost all of them, including the Assad government, are guilty of terrorism by any objective standard.  The only group that appears innocent of that crime are Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, who've been oppressed by previous and current governments in the region, and are now well armed and determined to resist any further oppression.

I'll gladly support arming and supporting the Kurds;  but let them do the fighting for themselves.  As far as I know, neither we nor the Russians see any need to attack them.  Turkey has attacked PKK Kurdish terrorist bases across its border with Syria, but is apparently still on reasonably good terms with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds as such, and does not appear to be engaged in conflict with them.  I don't see how helping the Kurds would draw any others into the conflict, and it would satisfy a debt of honor we owe them for their support and assistance in US military operations in the area in past years.

However, apart from assisting the Kurds, what US national interest is involved in this conflict?  I can't see one.  Why are we even considering military action for or against anyone else?  Haven't we learned anything from our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts so far this century?  George H. W. Bush's decision to stop Operation Desert Storm once Kuwait had been liberated, and to leave Iraq to its own devices, seems more and more wise in hindsight.  The current administration might be well advised to consider it carefully.

I don't think the Syrian mess is worth even one more American life.  Let's reserve our armed forces for situations that directly threaten our security and national interests.

Peter

10 comments:

Dedicating Ruckus said...

It's true that very little that happens in this region can reasonably be described as of great importance to the American people, or the American homeland. The Blue Empire does have a variety of motives for its interventions; I will not call these compelling interests, since I doubt any of their relevance to the actual interests of actual Americans.

I'm assuredly missing many, but among others:

- For better or worse, in the regional Sunni/Shia conflict between (mostly) Saudi Arabia et al. and Iran et al., the US sides with the Sunnis. During the Arab Spring, the Sunni states wished to replace the mostly-secular Assad government with another Sunni regime, and still see a path to doing so (and shutting out the influence of Iran). Thus, along these lines, the US wishes to support the Sunni rebels against either Shia-sympathetic factions or the Assad regime.
- Relatedly, the Assad regime has been an ally of Russia, and provided it material benefit, most recently in the form of denying land use for oil pipelines from the Arabian peninsula to Europe. These pipelines would simultaneously help the mostly-Sunni regimes of Arabia and undercut Russia, who the Blue Empire now sees as an enemy. Thus, the US wishes to elevate a regime that would allow this, and otherwise deny Russia the benefit of its alliance in the area.
- Most cynically, the Blue Empire's dominance depends on its ability to credibly threaten other states' demise via abetting revolution (as in Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, &c.) It attempted the same game in Syria, and yet as of now has not successfully destroyed the Assad government. An enemy of the Blue Empire successfully fighting back against its exported revolutions would undercut its position worldwide, and so cannot be allowed.

Personally, I do not find any of these to be good reasons. But they do exist.

August said...

There are commie Kurds who do terrorist things, but the rest of the Kurds are ok.

But yeah, I think they smell the possibility of peace via Trump, and they want to head that off at the pass.

Being the 'last superpower' has caused some serious arrogance. Some of the U.S. politicians (both parties) appear to be on a project for making unreasonable demands- the endgame possibly being the lone country with nukes. They've got to raise the stakes before Russia or China can catch up, and I don't think they care much how much damage America takes, as long as they protect themselves.

HMS Defiant said...

When I worked at NAVCENT we used to wonder about the Kurds. The PKK was fighting hard against the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military was gassing them in job lots. We used to wonder, can they not put business before pleasure? Saddam wanted them all dead and they preferred to kill each other rather than kill the Iraqi soldiers.

Rolf said...

What's the compelling reason? You have to ask? Distraction. Look tough.

Wag the dog.

There is an election coming up, and the media would rather push war footage which helps their candidate than explain wikileak release nuance that hurts her.

Aaron said...

Obama squandered the earlier opportunities for action in Syria and ignored his own red lines for intervention when it may have been both decisive and less Geo-politically risky without a Russian presence.

In short Obama created a vacuum and abandoned potential allies in Syria, then dabbled with sending weapons to anyone there, and Russia came along filed in the vacuum by backing its historic client and intervention now makes no strategic sense.

I'd have to go with Rolf's view that its a wagging the dog distraction and trying to depict former Secretary of State and candidate Clinton as tough on dictators after her tenure in office of letting dictators slide including her support of ignoring the crossing of Obama's red line.

Chris Mallory said...

A big NO on arming the Kurds. Nothing in the Middle East is any business of the US government or responsibility of the American tax payer. We have dumped enough welfare into the cesspit of the Middle East, cut off all aid to every nation and group there.

raven said...

Obama needs a decisive US defeat in the ME, so as to put a cork in the bottle for US intervention when Iran tests their nuke. The public has to be utterly tired of any intervention, and body bags are the way to do that.

Peter B said...

The war party in Congress is bipartisan. (Of course, there's bipartisan support for Hillary.)
There was a ceasefire in the works that would have required the US and Russia to assist humanitarian relief in Syria and smack down any of their allies and associates who got in the way of that.

To do that, the US and Russia were supposed to share intelligence about who was where. The US DOD let it be known that they reserved the right to refuse to share intel with the Russians.
Then the US "accidentally" bombed Syrian troops and the ceasefire fell apart.

Meanwhile, Obama's Responsibility to Protect sisterhood was warming up the no fly zone rhetoric (just had a ceremonial meeting with Obama and Hillary, IIUC) and the Chairman of the JCOS just told Congress that a fully effective no fly zone meant war with Russia and Syria.

Also meanwhile, the US just announced the successful test of the delivery system for the soon to roll out upgrade to the standard nuclear bomb (more ability to select yield and fallout parameters and more ground penetration. Wikipedia: Critics say[weasel words] that a more accurate and less destructive nuclear weapon would make leaders less cautious about deploying it, but Schwartz says it would deter adversaries more because the U.S. would be more willing to use it in situations where necessary.

Not long before, this upgrade was the subject of discussion by the various spokescreatures on the talk show circuit and in the news media; much glee and few reservations were expressed . This was apparently viewed with alarm in Russia.

The civil defense exercise and recall of the family members of Russian diplomats who are serving outside the USSR followed.

Does Putin believe the polls that have Hillary well in the lead, and this is an attempt to establish facts on the ground before she takes over? He sure knows how she thinks; he's no doubt had a big team going over her emails for a while now.

Steffen said...

The Saudis always wanted an oil pipeline through Syria, but never got one because Syria was a Russian client state.

If we declare full-on war, chances are the Saudis paid off U.S. officials to see that they finally get their pipeline. Political wag-the-dog Clinton style distraction of the media nets the officials bonus style points.

Rez Zircon said...

From everything I've read, Assad is the stable influence there and we shouldn't be trying to throw him out. That aside, our motivation? IMO it's not ours at all, it's the Saudis (remember the $50M or so they gave to the Clinton Foundation?), who _want_ to destabilize the region -- because unrest and migrants are doing Islam's work without the tedium of having to handle their own shooting war.