Wednesday, June 25, 2014


'If only we had intervened militarily in Syria on the side of rebels fighting to oust Assad… If only we had insisted on keeping a military force in Iraq…'

That’s the chorus of Dick and Liz Chaney, Robert Kagan and all the neocons, and not a few “liberal interventionists”. Of Iraq, John McCain says, “ we had it won” and then we left.

Is that so?

Let’s do a “hypothetical”.  Suppose we had bombed Syria, intervened to arm chosen rebel factions, and brought about the ouster of Assad.

Isn’t it likely that ISIS, as the most dynamic force in the rebel mix, would gain the most — that it would have even greater advantage in crusading for its Syria-Iraq regional caliphate? Would the US be better able to control events in that situation than it has been in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war? Would the Sunni-Shiite religious, ethnic and economic conflicts subside? Would intrigues and struggles over oil cease? Would deep antagonism toward “Western” interventionism fade away?

Applying the “hypothetical” to Iraq, how long would McCain have US troops killing and dying there until it was “safe” to leave Iraq to its own arrangements?

* * *
Now, consider a not-so-hypothetical exercise. After the above lines were written, I found a “reality check” on the front page of today’s NY Times. The headline reads: After Opening Way to Rebels, Turkey is Paying Heavy Price.

             “…Turkey allowed rebel groups of any stripe easy access to the battlefields in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. But that created fertile ground in Syria for the development of the Sunni militant group that launched a blitzkrieg in Iraq this month, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“…Now, with the rise of ISIS, the Turkish government is paying a steep price for the chaos it helped create.

 “The fall of Mosul was the epitome of the failure of Turkish foreign policy over the last four years,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. ‘I can’t disassociate what happened in Mosul from what happened in Syria, and Turkish foreign policy toward Syria has been unrealistic, hubristic, ideological and stubborn.’”

The interventionist chorus has drowned out reason and truth before, and the price has been heavy in lost and cruelly damaged lives. And still they are unashamed. They denounce any and all who at last shy away from the futile quest for military solutions to deep-seated political and economic problems. Their faith is in the “shock and awe” of military might to quell historic religious and ideological antagonisms. That delusion is unshaken by failure after failure, in the Middle East most of all.

What accounts for the stubborn denial of experience and common sense? It’s hard for the powers that be, who live and breathe “American exceptionalism”, to recognize 21st Century reality. It’s hard to accept that the far-flung military and economic holdings of the most powerful of nations cannot make this an “American Century” with the rest of the world gratefully following our leads.

Some voices in the interventionist chorus are raised out of frustration and horror over the vast human suffering and dislocation caused by civil and religious wars. But logic doesn’t point to more acts of war as remedy. Relief for the victims of war and fratricide demands maximum cooperative effort across national and ideological divides. Just so, reducing violence and warfare demands a massive political effort to bring together all countries and entities, regardless of serious differences, that have a common interest in encouraging arrangements that make peace possible.

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