Another Perspective

The U.S. Military as Western Union

Why has the U.S. military been reduced to a message delivery system?

By 8.30.13

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Last November, United Nations human rights investigators accused the Free Syrian Army of war crimes after video emerged showing a group of rebels executing 10 captured government soldiers. The soldiers were videotaped begging for their lives before being executed.

In April, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused a rebel battalion of torturing civilians and extorting money from them in Syria's northern city of Aleppo.

In May, U.N. human rights investigators heard testimony from casualties of Syria's civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces used the nerve gas sarin, a lead investigator told Reuters.

Again in May, a crowd of civilian demonstrators were shot at by rebel snipers in Damascus.

In August, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called for an investigation into war crimes committed by Syrian rebel fighters after a U.N. team in Syria found evidence that rebels executed at least 30 people last July in Aleppo. Most of the victims were Syrian soldiers.

Earlier this month Syrian rebels killed at least six civilians in an attack on a checkpoint near the town of Homs. Most of the dead were Christians.

Why exactly is America taking the side of these people?

Not out of humanitarian reasons, I hope. Humanitarian military intervention, as I understand it, is supposed to de-escalate conflict. By arming rebels and launching an illegal, unprovoked attack on Syria, President Obama is guaranteeing that the war will escalate. Ask yourself, why would the rebels want to negotiate with Damascus when the U.S. is about to join their side?

Humanitarian military intervention is supposed to reduce bloodshed. But it is unclear how providing more guns and ammunition to one side and bombing government targets on the other will reduce the number of casualties.

Finally, humanitarian military intervention will almost certainly lead to some kind of deadly response from Syria, and possibly Hezbollah and Iran, widening the war, and possibly spreading the conflict to neighboring countries.

HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION is a smokescreen anyway. What Obama and his allies on the right really want is regime change. The Syrian civil war is the 2011 military intervention in Libya all over again. Start out with a humanitarian effort, end up with regime change, and, as a postscript, Benghazi.

Obama and Sen. John McCain may finally get their wish. Evidence suggests the proverbial red line has been crossed. Secretary of State John Kerry says there is no doubt that chemical weapons were used on civilians earlier this month. Kerry has no idea by whom, but it must be the Assad regime because the rebels would never do a thing like that.

Pat Buchanan wrote recently that the first question we should ask after such an attack is: who benefits? Assad had absolutely zero to gain by using poison gas on civilians, and everything to lose, as seen by the West’s rabid response. The rebels, on the other hand, had everything to gain. Obama made it clear that the U.S. would stay out of the internal conflict unless Assad used chemical weapons. Would a gang that shoots civilians demonstrating in the streets of Damascus have scruples against sarin gas on civilians?

It remains unclear why the Obama Administration is fixated on chemical weapons. If Assad’s troops killed ten civilians with chemical weapons while the rebels butchered 50 civilians with machetes, why would Assad still have crossed the red line?

Before the U.S. gets embroiled in another decade-long war, here a few things to consider:

Nearly every military analyst agrees that U.S. airstrikes will have no significant effect on Assad’s regime, and in fact, are only meant to send a message. Apparently the message is: “Take this. We have no intention of going any further.” The U.S. military has been reduced to the equivalent of Western Union, a message delivery system.

Airstrikes, however, may have an effect on Muslims in Iran and elsewhere, angering them and causing them to retaliate against U.S. overseas' targets. This, of course, will lead to a further escalation of the conflict, and, ultimately, American boots on the ground.

Last, who is to say that a rebel (or Sunni Muslim) victory will not lead to a bloodbath of Christians and Alawaites, as Syrian bishops have warned?

The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to endless U.S. interventions overseas. The only people in favor of another desert war are Obama and “a tiny, insular elite that mostly lives in Washington, D.C.,” notes Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic. President Obama promised to bring America home. Congress and the American people should hold him to that promise.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.