It is truly disappointing when commentators and experts (I use that term sparingly and only for those who I feel deserve the label) I usually enjoy reading and respect come out with an opinion that runs counter to my own. Lately, it is over the Syria crisis that I've found my latest disappointment. Conrad Black, a former British Parliamentarian and respected authority on matters of state and politics, and Clifford D. May, the head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, have both recently come out in favor of US military intervention in Syria to unseat Bashar al-Assad. Both openly advocated direct military action to rid the country of a man they describe as a brutal dictator and to install "democracy" in Syria.
Here's my question: Have they learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan?
Truth be told, I supported (and still support) the action in Afghanistan. I supported our action in Iraq, although lately I have come to question some of our decisions within that country. But the overall result of these has been to unseat a dictator or radical political group and to install corrupt "democracies" all the while ignoring custom, tradition, religion, and history in these two countries. The end result was the governments we installed have largely become critical and ungrateful bunches of worthless, sand-bitten ingrates and petty thieves who spend more time blaming us for their problems than trying to do anything about it. We read the writing on the wall in Iraq and got out, leaving the Iraqis to sort it out on their own. We will soon be doing so in Afghanistan, or at least that is the hope. I get the feeling that our troops, while they do their duty, are getting sick of being blamed for everything and are tired of the Middle Eastern ingratitude. Do we really want a repeat of the same on an even greater scale in Syria?
Here's some facts: number one, we and Israel may not like al-Assad, but he has more or less kept the peace on the border at the disputed Golan Heights, in spite of Hezbollah and Hamas. Second, he is a secular leader, like his father, and has crushed Wahhabi extremists in his own country with a brutality that while shocking is not unwelcome while at the same time protecting minorities in Syria, such as his own Alawite people, Syriac Christians, Druze, and Circassians. And third, what makes Black and May think that the Syrian opposition will be any better? From all that I have seen, while Assad is bad, the Salafists and Wahhabis in the Syrian opposition (see Muslim Brotherhood) are a damn sight worse than he is. If they gain control, don't be surprised when Syria becomes a little Arabia, with morality laws and morality police to enforce them. Public beheadings, implementation of burkha laws, etc., will be the norm. And also expect them to give safe-haven to radical Islamist groups terrorists and to be hostile in the extreme to America and Israel.
Intervene? WHY? To replace a bad egg with a whole batch of utterly rotten ones? Where is the sense in that?
If a nation is to come into its own, it must deal with its issues on its own. Could we have won the Revolution without France's help? I believe we could have. Horatio Gates won Saratoga and Greene won Cowpens without French help, and when Washington crossed the Delaware, he did it without French help. Washington broke out of New York and cornered Cornwallis at Yorktown. While he may have had help at Yorktown, that was at the end of the war when the hard work had already been done. Every other nation in history has had to deal with its own problems, alone, for it is ultimately their future that they decide, for better or worse.
Whatever happens in Syria, it must be done by Syrians. We would do well to stay out of a nasty situation and leave them to choose their own path. It must be this way. History demands it.