Ten years ago, on trumped up charges, the US invaded Iraq. The subsequent occupation unlocked years of repressed (and irrational) religious hatred coupled with economic discrimination. These forces created a powerful mix that chewed up American dollars and lives. Our fruits of “victory” (mission accomplished) has been a generation of crippled and broken American soldiers, a trillion dollar debt, and the prospect of years of PTS for thousands of veterans. Surely there must be lessons to learn from George W Bush’s war.
Senator John McCain thinks he has the nuggets of new found knowledge. McCain, in fact, wants to apply this insight to the Syrian conflict.
President Obama reached out to McCain and Senator Lindsay Graham over the weekend. The President has maneuvered himself into an awkward spot with his “red line”, “well we must be sure first”, and “well I want to include Congress” approach to reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against the insurgents (and anyone else who was nearby). The President is looking to McCain and Graham for support and help convincing Congress to adopt a limited war resolution. Hmmm.
The problem with McCain is that, just like Iraq, McCain is not interested in sending a message to Bashar al-Assad “don’t use WMD”, but wants instead to undertake regime change. In essence, McCain is saying “for my support, you Mr President have to implement a larger plan aimed at toppling the current Syrian Government”.
The President, if he accepts Senator McCain’s notion, will be playing with fire. There is no way of predicting what other neighborhood bad actors might do in response to US open assistance to the Syrian rebels (who ever they might be). Iraq is already experiencing sectarian violence and could easily spin apart. Iran, who’s Shiite majority could claim an Iraq victory, would not be expected to sit idly by if Sunnis looked to be winning in Syria or in the next Iraq civil war. Lebanon and Jordan would be sitting ducks for roving radicals. And what would the US feel it necessary to do then?
Senators McCain and Graham belong to a school that America can fix anything. In a world of “maybe’s”, “could have’s”, and “wanted to’s”, becoming entangled in another conflict where there is no direct connection to American self interest, makes little or no sense.
Wait, this is about humanitarian assistance. Hmmm.
Well then, please consider two things. (1) There are thousands dying in various place in Africa as one armed group tries to take power in this country or that one. There are not even a scant messages from the good Senators toward these atrocities. (2) This is the Middle East and Islam is the name of the game. It’s a men’s world and women’s rights (as we understand them) do not exist. Should a women try to act “Western”, death is often the reward. Even Senator McCain can’t fix that.
What a pickle.
President Obama faces the possibility of a Congressional “no” vote (then what does he do?), or a “yes” vote when he can go ahead with a symbolic strike… but Senator McCain will hold the President to doing more. Robust support of the insurgents and more air strikes are on the Senator’s list.
With these outcomes, the good Senator as well as other Republicans (and neocons) can blame the President for just about any Syrian outcome. (Many Neocons still justify the Iraq invasion and occupation and assign the poor outcomes to a poorly implemented plan. Hmmm.
President Obama will most likely seal his Presidency’s place in history by how he handles this Syrian situation. It is not looking promising at this point.