What is the United States to do about the massacre occurring in Syria? John McCain has publicly accused President Obama of incompetence. The Senior Arizona Senator believes the United States should be arming the “rebels” in order to topple the regime of the Despot of Damascus. It seems as though both Hilary Clinton and Leon Panetta agree with McCain. So why does the President refuse to become involved in this internecine conflict?
Syria is not the nation of ancient history but is rather a creation of the Ottoman Turks and later, the British Empire. A collection of tribes, Syria sits to the north and east of Israel, with the small nation of Lebanon to its west. Lebanon is wedged between Syria, the Mediterranean and Israel to its south.
Syria has never known Democracy. The Alawite tribe has lorded over the nation making as many problems for its neighbors as it possibly can. With the help of Iran, Syria has essentially occupied Lebanon and supported the terrorist Hezbollah Network. Hezbollah kills Jews, Christians, Europeans, Americans and virtually anyone else who is not a nationalist extremist Arab Muslim. Syria has been a reliable proxy for Iran in the World War of fundamentalist Islam against everyone else.
As bad as Syria, and its leader Bashar Assad, has been to the West, he has been a terrorist even to Muslim Arabs. Syria has enslaved Arabs from the Jordanian West Bank, usually referred to as “Palestinians” in refugee camps. Those squalid communities have been a breeding ground for a cornucopia of troublemakers. Assad and his Syrian regime have it both ways; they can make rabble rouse directly, through their Hezbollah pawns in Lebanon and by keeping the pot stirred over the “plight” of Palestinian Arabs whose dilemma they created.
President Obama’s reaction has been assiduously to do nothing. Where is he coming from? The answer is quite simple. President Obama realizes that the United States is in terrible financial shape, spending much more money than we can possibly take in from taxes. One way to cut the deficit which is eating away at our core and destroying our empire is to stop the wars. This is a tried and true approach that has been utilized by the Babylonian, Roman, and many other empires. When the money runs out, stop the wars! People like McCain argue that in the long run it is less expensive to arm the rebels in Syria than to do nothing. It sounds good, but anyone who has sat on the board of a non-profit, run a corporation or handled a family budget knows that it’s all about cash flow. At some point, extraordinary deficit spending must be reeled-in or even the domestic social safety network will fall apart.
President Obama’s other reason for not arming the rebels in Syria is the old adage that perhaps the enemy you know is better than the enemy that you are unfamiliar with. The guys fighting the Assad regime are not Eagle Scouts. The various groups challenging the demonic rule of Bashar Al-Assad are themselves extremists, murderers, and enemies of Western civilization. Assad’s opponents cannot be relied upon to create a stable, safe or sane revolution.
President Obama’s third reason for not wanting to arm President Assad’s opponents is a fear that those weapons will fall into the hands of still more irresponsible people, just as occurred to the Russians in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a millennia-long civil war frequently fueled by Western powers and their infusion of weapons. Syria can easily go the same way as Afghanistan.
Even Israelis, always comfortable about a debate involving international politics, seem to be treading very carefully. Israel, sharing a border with Syria, could easily become involved with the conflict in that country, but has been extremely delicate. A few surgical strikes is all that Israel has allowed, and even then only when its very existence appears to be threatened. Most Israelis I have talked to, in our two recent trips to that nation, have taken a “wait and see” attitude that is not much different from President Obama’s.
If the question is not complicated enough, there is also the issue of the Kurds. The Kurds are one people in the Middle East who probably deserve their own homeland. Somehow Kurdistan was overlooked when the Turks and the British Empire carved up the Middle East. There are substantial Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, all of whom have suffered from wars of annihilation waged against them by Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims. Should the United States be supporting a Kurdish revolution? Would Kurdistan be any more stable or less inhospitable to the West than the current Arab regimes in the area? Only Heaven knows.
Senator McCain decries the slaughter of over 70,000 Syrians brought about by Syrian government leaders. This is not the first time that the leaders of Syria have waged war against their own people. 20,000 Syrians were killed more than a decade ago, and tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were murdered by President Assad’s father, himself not a very nice chap.
The United States and other Western nations are looking for a “legitimate” rebel partner in Syria. Thus far they have not found one. Russia and China have done everything they can to thwart the West and to keep the kettle on the boil. It seems to be in the interests of our “friends” in Russia and China to keep the Iran-Syrian axis strong and to export instability to the rest of the western world.
President Obama will soon be going to Israel. The President talked about the need for Israel security and the danger from Iran as well as Syria in his State of the Union address. The words are great and they do constitute a beginning. The real issue will be whether the United States forges a workable relationship with the only Democracy the Middle East has ever known, the State of Israel, in order carefully to engineer the breakup of the Iran-Syrian Hezbollah connection. The ultimate goal needs to be, not who becomes the next dictator in Damascus, but rather how to undermine the fellowship of blood binding together a nascent Muslim empire and fueled by the cynical rulers of Russia and China.
Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey,
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Cliff Rieders, who practices law in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.