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No to War As an Entitlement in Syria — or Anywhere Else

August 8, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Obama administration policy toward Syria is a slow train wreck. Unremitting pressure from war-minded elites is pushing President Barack Obama closer to military intervention in the bloody civil war. Yet getting involved would be a fool’s errand.

Nevertheless, America’s putative allies appear to believe that they are entitled to U.S. support. The president should disabuse them of this dangerous notion.

War should be a matter of necessity, not choice. Of course, the Sirens’ call of intervention usually promises quick and humane results. Alas, Americans seem to be constantly rediscovering that military operations rarely go as planned and the costs of conflict usually are far higher than expected.

When the much maligned “Vietnam Syndrome” ended in the 1980s, U.S. presidents again began marching off to war. But Ronald Reagan’s meddling in Lebanon’s civil war, Bill Clinton’s misadventures in Somalia and the Balkans, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and occupation of Afghanistan offer bloody reminders that war is not just another policy option.

There is no reason to believe that Syria would be any different. Indeed, that nation is distinctly unpromising for nation-building: a messy civil war with a weakened family dictatorship attempting to retain control of an artificial nation increasingly fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines. Even direct action to oust President Bashar al-Assad likely would not stop the killing. As in Iraq, the end of formal hostilities would only trigger the next round.

Yet Syrian insurgents and their supporters not only hope for Western aid. They expect it and are angry when Washington fails to act. Last August, reported the Washington Post, America “increasingly is being viewed with suspicion and resentment for its failure to offer little more than verbal encouragement to the revolutionaries.” One rebel spokesman said: “America will pay a price for this. America is going to lose the friendship of Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore. Already we don’t trust them at all.”

Individual rebels complained that the U.S. could have aided their cause and prevented battlefield victories by the government. Analysts warned that Washington was losing its opportunity to promote the emergence of a democratic and secular Syria.

Only limited humanitarian assistance followed, to the great frustration of the insurgents. In February the administration promised additional non-military aid. Secretary of State John Kerry called this “a significant steeping-up of the policy.” The insurgents did not agree.

Opposition leader Adib Shishakly complained to the Post that “We expected more, but hopefully this is …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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