Monday, June 3, 2013

The U.S. Should Stay Out Of Syria

Military Disaster

John McCain’s Plan: Military action is always the best option. “We could train and arm
well-vetted Syrian opposition forces, as recommended last year by President Obama’s
national-security team,” McCain wrote in a NYT’s op-ed piece (“Syria: Intervention Is in Our
Interest“: May 8th)
Credit: Dave Granlund

An article, by David Bromwich, in The New York Review of Books says that the United States should in no way get involved in any military action in Syria, not with the lessons supposed learned in Iraq and Libya informing it. .
The deepening violence of the Syrian civil war is also in some measure a consequence of Libya: Qaddafi’s disbanded army and unguarded weapons moved southward in Africa, but they also moved eastward to Asia. The state terror of the most “surgical” air war leaves in its wake many thousands of stateless terrorists. As Nancy Youssef pointed out in a penetrating survey on March 14 in the McClatchy newspapers (“Middle East in Turmoil 10 Years After Iraq Invasion”): “The most effective anti-Assad rebel military faction [in Syria], the Nusra Front,” is itself “a branch of al Qaida in Iraq, the same radical Islamist group that the US fought in that country and that the current Iraqi government also is battling.”
The recent past is still with us, if we take the time to look. This is the background against which one must assess the judgment of those persons—well placed in the media and the foreign policy elite—who have lately urged another violent intervention by the US in Arab lands. Three days before the Benghazi hearings, on May 5, Bill Keller published a double-length Op-Ed in The New York Times. His column was entitled “Syria Is Not Iraq,” and its moral was adequately conveyed in Keller’s final words: “Getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”
Let us pause to remember Iraq before we follow Keller’s invitation to get over it. Almost 4,500 Americans died in Iraq, and 32,000 came home wounded. Of the numbers of Iraqi dead that would be living had the Americans not bombed, invaded, and occupied their country, reliable estimates are harder to come by, but in 2008 The New England Journal of Medicine estimated a total of 151,000 violent deaths by June 2006; and the seven years that followed have added many thousands more.
At the time of the Iraq invasion, Keller was an Op-Ed columnist and senior writer at the Times. In 2002–2003, when his newspaper’s slanted coverage of Iraq played a significant part in leading the country into war, Keller believed the Times stories based on forged or dubious evidence circulated by the Bush administration, and threw his considerable journalistic energy into support of the war. Looking back, in his May 5 Op-Ed, he speaks euphemistically of “our ill-fated adventure in Iraq”; his own part in it he calls “a humbling error of judgment” that for a time “left me gun-shy.”
But Syria is not Iraq, he says, and he now recommends the deployment of American military might against Syria. Keller’s pressing fear is that by inaction, the US may surrender its role as international leader: “Prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.” By means of violent intervention, he believes, the tragedy can be made smaller; and he deplores the reticence of President Obama as the evasion of “a president looking for excuses to stand pat.”
America’s military invasion in Iraq and its intervention in Libya has resulted in little good and much bad; not only deaths, displacement and destruction of two nations and their people, but has increased sectarian violence and has placed a large stockpile of weapons into the hands of terrorists. War ought to have a purpose and a potential positive outcome; it’s hard to see what the purpose would be in this case. Unless the U.S. wants to bear some responsibility, again, in creating more refugees through their ill-conceived and -thought of actions—a sad but brutal consequence of all wars and conflicts. Lost in the calculation of generals and political hawks is that real human lives are at stake. Millions of them.

Bromwich writes:
The refugees of the Iraq war were the great unspoken disaster of the bombing, invasion, and armed occupation of Iraq, during the first five years of our nine-year stay. Two and a half million fled that country, out of a population of 27 million. Thus far the US has admitted as immigrants 64,000: a little under 3 percent. The vast majority of those displaced lives have become the unasked responsibility of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and other Arab nations. And the scale of the crisis of the refugees from Syria is only beginning to be recognized. Of the nearly one and a half million refugees scattered by the civil war into foreign lands, 500,000 are in Jordan alone, more than half of them under the age of eighteen.
Displacement and disruption from normal routines often serve as a breeding ground for future large-scale problems. To a large degree, unless the invading forces want to ensure that refugees find a permanent safe haven, which is rarely the case historically, such large-scale camps often become a place of misery and instability. Misery leads to resentments, and often to anger and violence. A cycle, if one examines it rationally, that has no real positive purpose, but many negative ones.

The U.S. has to stop thinking itself as the saviour of the world.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYRB]