On U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war, where “both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line ‘Allahu akbar’ … I say let Allah sort it out.”
So said Sarah Palin to the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. And, as is not infrequently the case, she nailed it.
Hours later, Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, at length, echoed Palin: “Those who are urging the US to get more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict now are living in the past.”
Four fundamental changes make it “no longer realistic, or even desirable, for the US to dominate” the Middle East as we did from the Suez crisis of 1956 through the Iraq invasion of 2003.
The four changes: the failures of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Great Recession, the Arab Spring and emerging U.S. energy independence.
Indeed, with $2 trillion sunk, 7,000 U.S. troops dead, 40,000 wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans dead, and millions of refugees, what do we have to show for this vast human and material waste?
Can a country with an economy limping along, one that has run four consecutive deficits in excess of $1 trillion, afford another imperial adventure?
On the Shiite side of the Syrian civil war are Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad. On the Sunni side are the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, Sunni jihadists from across the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Is victory for either side worth yet another U.S. war?
Ought we not stand back and ask: What vital interest is imperiled here?
And even if Americans favor one side or the other, how lasting an impact could any U.S. intervention have? The region is in turmoil.
Since the Tunisian uprising that dethroned an autocratic ally, dictators have fallen in Egypt and Libya. There have been a Shiite revolt in Bahrain, a civil war in Yemen and a civil-sectarian war in Syria that has cost 90,000 lives. Iraq is disintegrating. Al-Qaida is in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, the Maghreb region and Mali.
Now the muezzin’s call to religious war is heard.
“How could 100 million Shiites defeat 1.7 billion (Sunnis)?” roared powerful Saudi cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, calling for a Sunni-Shiite war. Al-Qaradawi denounces Assad’s Alawite sect as “more infidel than Christians and Jews” and calls Hezbollah “the party of the devil.”
“Everyone who has the ability and has training to kill … is required to go” to Syria, said al-Qaradawi.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have made a comeback, and the United States is negotiating with the same crowd we sent an army to oust in 2001. And the press reports we will be leaving behind $7 billion in U.S. military vehicles and equipment when we depart.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most successful Turkish leader since Kemal Ataturk, appears to have lost his mandate, with hundreds of thousands pouring into streets and squares both to denounce and to defend him.
The United States, says Rachman, “has recognised that, ultimately, the people of the Middle East are going to have to shape their own destinies. Many of the forces at work in the region — such as Islamism and Sunni-Shia sectarianism — are alarming to the West but they cannot be forever channelled or suppressed.”
Did those clamoring today for intervention in Syria learn nothing from Ronald Reagan’s intervention in an earlier Arab civil war, the one in Lebanon? Result: 241 dead Marines, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut bombed and hostages taken.
Reagan left office believing his decision to put Marines in Lebanon was his greatest mistake. And to retrieve those hostages, he acceded to a transfer of weapons to Iran, an action that almost broke his presidency.
Yet it is not only in the Middle East that we are “living in the past,” in a world long gone. As Ted Galen Carpenter writes in Chronicles, under NATO we are committed to go to war with Russia on behalf of 27 nations.
If Russia collides with Estonia or Latvia over the treatment of their Russian minorities, we fight Russia. For whose benefit is this commitment?
Today Japan spends 1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Yet the USA is committed to go to war to defend not only the home islands but the Senkaku islets and rocks in the East China Sea that China also claims.
Are the Senkakus really worth a war with China?
NATO was established to defend Europe. Yet Europe spends less on its own defense than we do. Sixty years after the Korean War, we remain committed to defend South Korea against North Korea. Yet South Korea has an economy 40 times as large as North Korea’s.
Former Rep. Ron Paul asks: Why, when U.S. debt is larger than our GDP and we are running mammoth annual deficits, are we borrowing money abroad to give away in foreign aid?
Good question. As for those ethnic, sectarian and civil wars raging across the Middle East, let Allah sort it out.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”
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