Make a Case for Peace
As I write this on the 12th anniversary of the “9-11” attacks and having served in more than one military lost cause, it is with trepidation that I watch America prepared to leap into another diplomatic muddle which we are unprepared to win. To most Americans, Middle Eastern politics is comparable to a roller coaster without brakes or seatbelts. Sane people avoid rides leading to certain misadventure, but sanity is not a prerequisite for holding public office. Thus we find ourselves dragged along in another foreign policy misadventure because elected leaders and diplomats cannot bring themselves to back off and reassess, and trade emotion for cold-blooded “realpolitik.”
Make no mistake; what is happening in Syria is reprehensible, even barbaric. However, the barbarism of chemical warfare is matched by the savagery of regime opponents which includes brutal decapitations, torture-executions, even eating the heart of fallen opponents. There are few good guys in the Syrian civil-war and if my son were still with the Marines, I would hope we would stand down.
Use of military force, a diplomatic tool of last resort, should always be coupled to a strategic, vital national interest. Long-term, the stability of Jordan is at risk, likely to be the next country to collapse if radical Islamists seize control of Syria. If Iran, the primary, regional sponsor of terror and discord establishes a permanent series of client states in the area, controlling Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and eventually Jordan, they will eventually encircle both Israel and Saudi Arabia and dominate the Persian Gulf region, which contains about 40% of the world’s oil. That is a vital American interest, as the security of Israel is a moral interest. In the case of Israel, confronted with Iranian/Shia Islam governments with apocalyptic world views and a nuclear-armed Iran, the possibility of a regional nuclear war or worse becomes imminently probable. Preventing that scenario is a vital American interest.
We then come to military options, which are few. Effective diplomacy is more so when backed up by credible military force. The forces currently deployed to the Syrian area of operations are inadequate except for the most minimal of military options. There appears to be no “Plan B” let alone “C.” The enemy always gets a vote and we seem to be assuming that all others concerned, like Iran or Russia, will sit quietly with folded hands as we slap around their Syrian proxy. Deploying a large, flexible and lethal military force provides multiple options, diplomatic and military, to achieve objectives, often without firing a shot. Appearing weak, indecisive, or hesitant, is asking for trouble. Wounding a king is always a bad idea, better to kill him outright. We nearly killed Qadaffi in the 80’s, he came back to murder an airliner in Lockerbie as revenge a year later. A minimal military strike is akin to teasing a rattlesnake; not advisable! Do it right or not at all.
When taking out a bad guy is not a good option, (in this case it isn’t) try something else. There are 100,000 dead in the Syrian civil-war, with another 5000 killed a month. Nearly 3 million are refugees and another 4 million internally displaced. They fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and are posing internal security threats to those countries, especially the Kingdom of Jordan, due to radical Imams recruiting youth to various sides of the war.
America can provide leadership in an area we do best, rallying support for humanitarian relief, through non-governmental organizations. We can protect minority populations, like Christians, Druze, even Alawites from predations by Islamic radicals and government thugs. We can pursue a world coalition not to make war but to impose a cease-fire, thereby enabling the eventual removal of chemical weapons for destruction. This is largely a problem for the Arab League, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even Russia, whose soldiers served alongside NATO troops to end the Bosnian and Kosovo wars. We can’t do it by “leading from behind” but we can draw upon the charitable traditions of a great nation to make a case for peace.
Atas News article 18 September 2013