Should the United States have prolonged the Syrian civil war by arming the rebels? Based on recent experience, one wonders if deposing ruling monarchies is in the best interest of either the peoples of the Middle East or of the world at large. Consider the following:
The failure of the Carter administration to support its ally Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, led to establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the region’s greatest threat. The reward to the United States for its implicit support of the Iranian revolution was an attack on its embassy, the ensuing hostage crisis, throngs in the streets screaming “Death to America,” and support of terrorism aimed at the U.S. and its’ allies. The result to Israel is likely to be increasingly dire in months and years to come.
The failure of the Obama administration to support U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, and a key supporter of the peace with Israel negotiated by Anwar Sadat, led to a near takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, described as a terrorist organization by a number of allies in the region. Only intervention by the military saved Egypt from Islamic totalitarianism.
While hardly virtuous, Muammar Gaddafi, following a wakeup confrontation with President Reagan’s military followed by the implicit threat of George W. Bush's anti-terrorism campaign after 9/11, had given up his nuclear ambitions and was actually providing significant assistance in world efforts to defeat Islamic terrorism. Hillary Clinton, Obama’s first-term Secretary of State, decided that Colonel Gaddafi should not be allowed to put down a rebel insurrection within Libya and led an international effort to free Libya from his predilection to violence. Again, our interference resulted in tragedy for America and disaster for the people of Libya.
Saddam Hussein, the counterweight to Iran in the Middle East, was a cruel dictator with the propensity to involve himself in world politics and commit despicable acts. After 9/11, in addition to its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bush administration opted to invade Iraq due to concerns over Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The ensuing government of Iraq was transformed from Sunni Muslim control that kept a firm hand on its Shiite Muslim majority population to Shiite Muslim control that abused its minority Sunni Muslim population. The result has been a continued reign of terror as car bombs and suicide bombers continue attacks on both branches of the Islamic tree.
Our involvement in Iraq was then followed by the disastrous and premature Obama decision to withdraw U.S. forces, thereby creating the opening for creation of a caliphate by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that has been on a murderous rampage throughout not only the Middle East but now extends into Europe, Africa, and even the United States.
That brings me back to the question of Syria: if the United States had not encouraged Syrians in their rebellion against the Assad government, if we had not surreptitiously armed Islamist rebels with weapons from Gaddafi’s stockpiles in Libya, if we had not trained and equipped something we called the “Free Syrian Army,” might not the civil war in Syria have ended by now with far fewer casualties than our prolonging of the war effort has allowed? I don’t know the answer to this question, but it seems worthy of serious consideration.
Is it a curious coincidence that this revolutionary wave engulfing one Islamic nation after another from Tunisia in 2010, to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq occurred within mere months of one another? Is it a coincidence that demonstrations, protest and riots over this same period of time occurred in Morocco, Bahrain, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Sudan with lesser protests in half a dozen other nations?
Is it a coincidence that where such demonstrations were immediately met with violent response and repression from governments, pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators such unrest largely passed but where the U.S. and its allies have intervened in support of regime change, battles still rage and horror rules the day creating a tidal wave of refugees threatening western civilization?
Do the United States and/or Western Europe really want to force regime change in Syria or should we instead support a ceasefire with the current government in place? There are steps we can take short of regime change that perhaps, based on our recent experience might lead to a better result.