DAVID ARCHIBALD | THE WEICHERT REPORT
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
So it has been with US involvement in Syria. To provide a context to that involvement let’s start part way through the story with the self-immolation of a Tunisian vegetable vendor on December 17, 2011, driven to despair by harassment from petty officials. That spark set of the Arab Spring.
A number of Arab regimes changed; some remained resilient.
From Libya to Syria: Down with the Dictators?
That wasn’t good enough for David Cameron and Nikolas Sarkozy, the then-leaders of the UK and France, respectively. Their armed forces started bombing the Libyans loyal to Colonel Gaddafi (which was a pity, because Colonel Gaddafi had become a nominal American client following the 2003 invasion of Iraq).
The Iraq invasion didn’t find the nuclear weapons program that was promised. But, Colonel Gaddafi closed down his nuclear weapons program that nobody had been aware of. The lesson that the world’s dictators learned from the Cameron and Sarkozy adventure is that you get deposed when you give up your nuclear weapons (so the effect of the Iraq invasion was completely undone).
In Syria, the Assad regime lost control of parts of the country to dominantly Sunni militias—some more militant than others. The most militant of all was the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), which swept into Iraq from their Syrian base.
ISIS had a predilection for beheading. No one was spared from their wrath, even toddlers. Their co-religionists were not much better. So terrible was ISIS’ misdeeds that Al Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate fighting in Syria, rebranded themselves in 2016, after one of its foot soldiers was videoed beheading an 11 year-old boy on the tailgate of a pickup truck.
The rebranding was necessary because otherwise continued funding by the CIA would be problematic.
The Obama regime had been reticent to get involved in Syria; the US had already come to the rescue of Cameron and Sarkozy in Libya with logistical support because those two had bitten off more than they could chew.
Meanwhile, the ISIS beheading videos created a clamor to get involved. It now became a national crusade to eradicate the evil ISIS. So, a bit like Pontius Pilate, Obama reluctantly assented to the use of kinetic force in Syria. Some good was initially done in helping the Kurds. But, mission creep set in, and the exercise morphed into attacking the Assad regime.
Which was a big mistake.
The Stronger Tribe
It is wrong to think of people in the Middle East as either good or bad, the correct categories are bad, worse, and yet worse. As Lee Smith argues, the tribal mentality of the Arabs against each other (and all Arabs against the outside world) reigns supreme. Of all the evil-doers, though, ISIS was the most evil.
For his part, Assad is following in the footsteps of his father, Hafez al-Assad, trying to hold the country together as best he can.
In fact, the current death and destruction in Syria had a prequel in 1982, when the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take over the city of Hama. Assad’s father ordered the destruction of the city by artillery fire. The death toll from that incident was estimated to be in the range of 20,000 to 40,000.
(The Saudis, by the way, have been doing similar to some Shia-dominated towns in Saudi Arabia in the last year but nobody is concerned about that.)
It is morally wrong to attempt to depose Assad because what would replace him would be worse – it would be the head-choppers. And, deposing Assad would lead to women and minorities being the worst affected.
The Christians would get wiped out, as they were in Iraq as a consequence of the 2003 invasion. So, why has the U.S. been spilling blood and squandering treasure in support of the “baddies” in this conflict?
If they were successful in deposing Assad, Syria would immediately turn into another haven for terrorists attacking the West—more so than it has ever been.
The explanation is provided in a still from this video at 1:56 of weapons recently surrendered by the head-choppers in southern Syria:
The sign was on the outside of a box containing a 130 mm artillery round. It is in English, so it was (presumably) provided by the CIA. The round was produced in Eastern Europe, because countries there still make ammunition for Soviet-era weapons. The manufacturer could have been a company like Arsenal in Bulgaria.
The CIA’s motivation is explained by the words “Ex Warshaw [sic] Pact Country”. The CIA thinks that, in attacking Assad, they could defeat Russia by proxy, because Russia had decided in 2015 to be loyal to a long term client.
The CIA, in Syria, has been fighting a war that was won 28 years ago when the Soviet Union fell apart. The CIA’s mindless battle with its own demons has prolonged the Syrian conflict and caused unnecessary death and destruction. It’d be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.
If what the CIA did was wrong—and doubly wrong because Russia’s client triumphed—then what is the right thing to do?
From the Barbary Coast Pirates to ISIS: Recurrent Police Action
It is important to get this right, so as to provide context, we will start at the beginning of the story.
One of the United States’ first foreign policy initiatives was to destroy the Barbary Pirates on the North African coast in a war from 1801 to 1805. These pirates had been conducting slave raids as far north as Iceland.
As usual, the Europeans had been too indolent to do anything about the problem. US involvement was prompted by the ransoming of US citizens. Many years passed before the US was back to bomb Libya in 1986.
This is the endless treadmill that the civilised world is on: Libyans (and others like them) disturb the peace of the world. In turn, the West tries to kill those who would impose their will on others (because the others include us).
It is a recurrent police action and no more than that is needed; it is pointless to stay around to do some nation-building – the mistake of Afghanistan.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.