Now we’re seeing what a real “unilateral” military venture looks like. Those opposed to Bush’s attack on Iraq in 2003 constantly criticized it as a unilateral effort, even though he had over 50 countries pledging support. Obama’s threat to bomb Syria with only the conditional backing of the French represents a true unilateral exercise. And if Congress fails to authorize military action against the Assad regime, it’s not even a U.S. unilateralism, but an Obama unilateralism. He would stand alone.
With growing evidence of state-sponsored use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the usual response would be some reprisal to discourage such usage again. That is certainly the hope of the administration. But that is hardly a “slam dunk” proposition when the country is embroiled in a bloody civil war, and our enemies are battling our enemies.
It’s morally unconscionable to back either side in this conflict. On the one hand is the despotic regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is also the Secretary for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. The regime is closely aligned with Russia, and shares political and financial support of Hezbollah, the terrorist group, with Iran. Syria’s support of Hezbollah landed the country on the vilified State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 1979. Hezbollah has played a significant role during the civil war battling insurgents alongside the official Syrian military.
On the other hand are the insurgents, those fighting to topple Assad. Early on in the civil war, the largest revolutionary group was the Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors that was non-sectarian. However, they have lost their leadership role to the Syrian Liberation Front, Hamas, and especially to Jabhat al-Nusra, all of which espouse an Islamist ideology. The latter group is comprised mostly of fighters from Iraq’s post-war insurgency and have pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Until the political correctness of the Obama administration started redefining Islamic extremist groups, these were all terrorists.
If Assad is deposed, Syria will likely follow the pattern of Libya and Egypt, with Islamic fundamentalists assuming control, which plays directly into the Islamic extremist determination to establish an Islamic Caliphate that encompasses the entire Middle-Eastern region, paving the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam.
The current U.S. players in the Syrian diplomatic minefield have significant baggage with regard to the Assad regime. John Kerry, current Secretary of State, has had several visits with Assad, where he’s referred to him as a “very generous man,” and a “friend.” Nancy Pelosi led a friendly congressional delegation to Syria in 2007 despite, or because of, the opposition expressed by the Bush administration, and then botched her message of peace with Israel. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has heaped praise on Assad for being a “reformer.” These socialistic bedfellows are no longer on cordial terms.
The Obama team has made it clear that they want to encourage Assad to not use chemical weapons again. That’s the intent behind their plan to fire a few tomahawk missiles at non-strategic locations within Syria. Assad is not to be targeted, nor are his chemical stockpiles, or any of his military installations. Obama clarified last week in a PBS interview that he envisioned the strike being a “shot across the bow,” a warning to not use chemical weapons again. In other words, it’s symbolic, and serves no tactical purpose.
The Obama strike would be comparable to when President Clinton ordered 23 tomahawk missiles shot into Iraq in June of 1993 for the attempted assassination of former President George H. W. Bush. Those strikes accomplished little, as alluded to by George W. Bush after the attacks of 911, when he vowed he wouldn’t make that same kind of mistake. Bush reportedly said, “I’m gonna be patient about this thing, and not go firing a 2 million dollar missile at a 10 dollar tent just to hit a camel in the butt.”
Hezbollah has been saber rattling ever since Obama’s announcement to bomb Syria. They have threatened retaliation against American interests overseas, especially in the Middle East, and retaliation against Israel. Israel has been consequently beefing up defense shields preparing for an attack from Iranian and Syrian based Hezbollah forces. And we shouldn’t be so naïve as to suppose Russia or China, close friends to the Assad regime, would sit idly by while their ally is attacked. Our diplomatic relationship with Russia is already the worst it’s been since the cold war. This will make it undeniably worse.
If you get the feeling that a tepid and mostly symbolic bombing of non-strategic targets in Syria can set off a full-scale regional conflict including the Islamic extremist desire to wipe Israel off the map, you’re not alone!
The U.S. has no national security interest in Syria, other than limiting the use of chemical weapons, which a limited bomb-strike will in no way assure. The country is engulfed in a bloody civil war where our enemies are fighting our enemies. Let them have at it. The consequences of our involvement are potentially much, much greater than can possibly justify the illusory intended results of a limited strike.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected].