Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Should “Resist the Call” to Intervene in Syria

A former U.S. ambassador to NATO warns President Obama to avoid the temptation to intervene militarily in Syria and advises him to "place his bet on vigorous and unrelenting diplomacy for a viable post-Assad Syria."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

President Obama got it right. He was picked by U.S. voters to put the nation’s interests first – not those of any ally, any member of Congress, or the media, even if they clamour for him to “do something” yet do not take responsibility for the consequences if things go wrong, as they have for some time in the Middle East.

Today, the issue raised by U.S. media and some of America’s allies are allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used poison gas to kill or maim thousands of Syrians. The consensus among Western commentators, in and outside of the government, has been built around this proposition, and it may be right.

United Nations inspectors may be able to verify the causes and perpetrators of these deaths and injuries. Let us hope so, before the United States or other countries begin direct military action of any kind that will be crossing the Rubicon.

Perhaps U.S. intelligence knows the facts; again, let us hope so. And let us hope that we do not later discover that intelligence was distorted, as it was before the ill-fated U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the consequences of which are still damaging U.S. interests in the Middle East and eroding the region’s stability.

In addition to being unable to turn back once the United States becomes directly engaged in combat, however limited, is the difficulty of believing that Assad would have been so foolish as to use poison gas, unless Syrian command-and-control is so poor that some military officer ordered its use without Assad’s permission.

If one invokes the concept of cui bono (“to whose benefit?”), those with the most to gain if the United States acted to bring down the current Syrian government would be Syrian rebels or their supporters, including Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Such a move would increase the likelihood of even more killing and perhaps genocide against Syria’s Alawites.

But citing the possibility that we are all being misled about who used poison gas – a tactic known as a false flag – does not mean it is true. It does redouble the need for the United States to be certain about who used the gas before taking military action. Obama has gotten this right, too.

So if we become directly involved in the fighting, then what?

This question must always be asked before acting. Sometimes, such as with Pearl Harbour, Hitler’s declaring war on the United States, or pushing Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, striking back hard for as long as it takes is clearly the right course.

Less clear of a situation was Vietnam. Ugly consequences also ensued from arming and training Osama bin Laden and his ilk to punish the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and, in one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history, from invading Iraq in 2003.

It has long been clear that the Syrian conflict is not just about Syria. It is also about the balance between Sunni and Shia aspirations throughout the core of the Middle East. Iran, a Shia state, started the ball rolling with its 1979 Islamic revolution. Several U.S. administrations contained the virus of sectarianism, but invading Iraq and toppling its minority Sunni regime got the ball rolling again.

Now Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are bent on toppling the minority Alawite – a mystical offshoot of Shi’ism – regime in Syria. Even if they succeed, the region’s internecine warfare won’t stop there.

Meanwhile, there is a geopolitical struggle for predominance in the region, principally involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. Iran has Shia-dominated Iraq, Assad’s Syria, and Hezbollah as acolytes. Saudi Arabia has the other Gulf Arab states, while Turkey has its regional ambitions extending to Central Asia. And since Israel’s conclusion that its Syrian strategic partner, the Assad family, is doomed, it has thrown in its lot with the Sunni states. But it wants change before Syria is completely dominated by the fundamentalists.

From the U.S. perspective, the regional situation is a mess, and the tipping point that would make things much worse could be direct military intervention in Syria.

It is too late for Obama to take back his ill-considered statement about the use of poison gas being a “red line” in Syria when he was not prepared to go for broke in toppling Assad. It is too late as well for him to reconsider his call for Assad to go, which further stoked the fears of the Alawites that they could be slaughtered.

It is also late for him to tell Gulf Arabs to stop fostering the spread of Islamist fundamentalism of the worst sort throughout the region, from Egypt to Pakistan to Afghanistan, where American troops have died as a result.

It is also late, but let us hope not too late, for a U.S.-led full-court press on the political-diplomatic front to set the terms for a reasonably viable post-Assad Syria rather than sliding into war and unleashing potentially terrible uncertainties. Let us recall what happened in Afghanistan after we stayed on after deposing the Taliban, and in Iraq after 2003. Neither place is in much better shape, if at all, even after the loss of thousands of U.S. lives and trillions in U.S. treasure.

And it is also late, but hopefully not too late, for the Obama administration to engage in strategic thinking about the Middle East; to see the region from North Africa to Southwest Asia as “all of a piece”, and to craft an overall policy towards critical U.S. interests throughout the area.

President Obama should heed the clear wake-up call, resist the call to do something militarily in Syria, and place his bet on vigorous and unrelenting diplomacy for a viable post-Assad Syria and the reassertion of U.S. leadership throughout the region.

Robert E. Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, was director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council Staff in the Carter Administration and in 2011-12 was Director of Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share