Have we learned nothing from U.S. regime-change failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya, not to mention counterproductive tinkering in civil wars in Somalia, Yemen and Syria? American meddling has helped produce six failed states in the Mideast and North Africa. Will we go to war against yet another Mideast dictator?
Fifty-one State Department members, mostly career diplomats involved in Mideastern policy, have signed a memo urging war against a nation that poses no direct threat to us, Bashar Assad's Syria. One leader of the group, Robert Ford, resigned from the Foreign Service in 2014 out of frustration with the Obama administration's hands-off policy toward Syria's civil war. Ford has long urged a tougher policy. The memo calls for "a more militarily assertive U.S. role in Syria, based on ... use of stand-off and air weapons, which would under-gird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process." This macho talk provides no clue about what happens after Assad. It's not as though Abraham Lincoln were waiting in the wings. Shades of the Iraq war!
The memo complains that Obama favors the campaign against Islamic State over dislodging Assad. But Islamic State, and not Assad, threatens us directly. Our support for the rebels who oppose Assad's Shiite regime has already broken Syria apart, creating refugees streaming into Europe, threatening to wreck the European Union and contributing to the recent Brexit. The refugee flood has spurred right-wing extremists in Germany, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere. Will we wreck Europe in our delusional effort to bring liberal democracy to yet another theocratic dictatorship? If we seriously want to fix the Mideast, we must begin by curing them of their extreme fundamentalism. Bombing isn't going to help much in this regard.
Our foreign policy establishment appears to have learned nothing from recent failures. This establishment appears to believe the road to a prosperous world future lies in establishing liberal capitalist democracies everywhere, and that it is our duty to engineer a steady diet of regime changes toward this end. But it should be obvious by now that liberal democracy is virtually impossible among fundamentalist Islamic nations, and that our attempts at regime change can only make nasty dictatorships worse. Our meddling in Iraq has already helped create the Islamic State terrorist network that has now spread, according to CIA Director John Brennen, to Iraq, Syria, Libya, Boko Haram in western Africa, Yemen and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
We played a key role in the Syrian civil war in 2011 when Obama said Assad had to go. It was a big mistake. Our only real enemies in the Mideast are Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria). It's not our business, and it's enormously harmful to our cause, to go to war against the Assad government, which is of course what we would be doing by following the State Department memo's advice to bomb his forces.
Last October, one day after Russian warplanes entered the battle against Islamic State in Syria, Hillary Clinton called for a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone that would protect Syrian civilians. Such a no-fly zone would be an act of war against Syria. This policy represents a break between Clinton and Obama on a very important matter. If it were officially enacted, it would be, in effect, a declaration of war not only against the Assad government but also against their Russian allies. The memo from 51 State Department diplomats, while not mentioning Clinton's policy announcement, is right in tune with such a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone. It effectively sides with the Sunnis in the religion-based power struggle between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia that helps drive Mideastern chaos. The international dangers are obvious.
It will come as no surprise that I supported Bernie Sanders for president, at least until a few weeks ago when he ceased to be a viable candidate. Clinton's foreign policy was my main reason for choosing him over her. There is a lot to like about Clinton, and I presently plan to vote for her, but I hope Sanders can convince her to back off of her hawkish global plans. The United States needs to get out of the world's face. We need to bring most of our troops home, and to focus militarily only on serious threats that directly affect us. I'm certainly not an isolationist, but we have enough problems here at home and must stop trying to fix the entire world.
Commentary on 07/05/2016
Print Headline: Another gratuitous war?