Actually, they are all wrong on Syria

· October 11, 2016  
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In this still image taken from video provided by the Syrian government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, government troops patrol inside the Bustan Al-Basha neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. Uncredited | AP Photo

One of the frustrating things about not having a conservative on stage during a major policy debate is that nobody starts from the right premise on any given issue. Nowhere was this more evident than with the discussion about U.S. involvement in Syria during Sunday night’s debate.

As I noted in my foreign policy piece on Friday marking the 15th anniversary of the failed Afghanistan war, nobody in politics seems to understand the lesson of the Middle East, even when it smacks them in the face. There is no positive outcome of an Islamic civil war and no reason for us to get involved in tipping the scales to one side. Undoubtedly, innocent people get killed in the civil war, but that is not our fault nor is it our responsibility to solve these conflicts — especially when there is no recourse other than getting our soldiers killed fighting for one or multiple enemy factions. In fact, strategically speaking on a geo-political level — without factoring in the human suffering — there is actually no better outcome than to have all of our enemies marred in an endless and unsolvable civil war. Why should we share in the misery?

In this vain, it is easy to understand how vacuous the question from Martha Raddatz was with regards to Syria:

what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Isn’t it a lot like the Holocaust when the U.S. waited too long before we helped?

She later asked a follow up of Trump: “What do you think will happen if Aleppo falls?”  

This assertion from Raddatz is outrageous and reflects weapons-grade stupidity, the very sort of ignorance that has gotten our soldiers killed for years to no end. During the Holocaust, there was one regime led by one man who seized power in a western country. By intervening and getting rid of the Hitler regime, that territory was able to be secured and preserved for a liberal democracy that would no longer kill its citizens. Indeed, that is what happened. In Syria, there is a fight between Assad/ Hezbollah/Russia/Iran vs. Al Qaeda splinter groups, Ahrar al Sham, and the Islamic State — with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia funding a number of the Islamic fundamentalist rebels.

Moreover, those various factions merely reflect the fractious nature of the people in the region. This is a Muslim country that is engaged in an Islamic civil war steeped in theological and tactical differences and exacerbated by irreconcilable sectarian differences. It is also a country that was never a country. It was cobbled together after WWI. There is no way to put that genie back in the bottle now that it has exploded.

Other than holding land for the Kurds, there is no other reliable partner with whom to hold ground. And in fact, once we have all our enemies engaged in a death-match, why shouldwe join in their misery instead of letting them kill each other? Our involvement will do nothing but bring misery to our military without saving a single life. We will make the situation worse and tip the balance of power to a specific sworn enemy, as we have done in each of these insufferable theaters in recent years.

“What if Aleppo falls?”

What an ignorant question! Falls to whom? To Assad? It’s already controlled by Islamists.

Hillary’s plan: Support Al Qaeda and continue Obama’s ground war

Not surprisingly, Clinton’s “solution” posited at the debate was to double down on Obama’s policy of arming the lovely “rebels.” In other words, arm Al Qaeda-affiliates who swear to chop our heads off. Clinton is smart enough to understand that the public has grown weary with U.S. involvement in these Islamic civil wars, so she emphatically said she’s opposed to sending ground troops to Syria. But then she immediately offered the Obama artifice strategy of sending “special ops.” As we’ve noted before, Obama has used the special operations troops as his private mercenary army. He has misused them to operate like a conventional force just so he can declare there are no troops on the ground. But these men are ground troops like everyone else and their lives matter just as much as conventional forces. In fact, it’s even more tragic to lose such highly trained soldiers, as has been happening in recent months (shhh, don’t tell anyone), to prop up Islamic rebels who will never succeed in their mission and hate us just as much as the Islamic State and Assad. In short, Hillary’s plan is to make Al Qaeda strong again while giving the illusion that we don’t have troops on the line.

Also, isn’t it interesting how Hillary orchestrated the Obama administration’s alliance with Iran, with the biggest beneficiary of that deal being Russia, yet she suddenly become zealously anti-Iran and Russia in order to involve our troops in a civil war with the Salafists in Syria?

Hillary did offer one new idea supported by conservatives — to directly arm the Kurds. This is farcical coming from her because almost every Democrat has already voted against such a proposal.

Mike Pence’s incoherent GOP establishment intervention to nowhere

At the debate on Sunday, Trump said he disagreed with his vice presidential candidate’s call for attacking Assad. During the vice presidential debate, Mike Pence expressed support for more robust military action in Syria on behalf of ….i don’t know whom…but some of our many enemies. “If Russia chooses to continue to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime,” said the Indiana governor in last week’s debate with Tim Kaine. This is the general position of the GOP establishment and the bankrupt conservative foreign policy mindset. It defies any logic and cannot even be articulated in a way that even makes sense on paper. Who would be the beneficiary of such military force? The Islamic State? The Islamist rebels? The mythical moderate rebels?

Mike Pence has already expressed support for military action against ISIS. Do these people even follow what is going on? Do they get briefings from advisors? 

Donald Trump is closer to the mark but still misses the point

Trump came the closest to the truth on Syria during the debate, noting that it was our interventions in the region that exacerbated the problems to begin with and that it is dumb to fight against Assad and Russia when they are fighting the Islamic State. The AP got ensnared in a phony fact check attempting to claim Assad is not fighting ISIS. It turns out Trump was right on that point. 

However, he is wrong on two other points. 

  1. Just because we shouldn’t fight against the Russians doesn’t mean we should cheer them on. We should cheer their misery in the Syria dumpster fire that will become their second Afghanistan. This is about putting America first, not being servile to Russia.
  2. Trump keeps mentioning ISIS as if that is the consummate threat. And it’s understandable why a candidate would direct his messaging towards ISIS because the public perception is that ISIS is the threat of all threats. However, the reality is that ISIS is on the decline in Syria and Iraq, whereas Al Qaeda affiliates, splinter groups, and alumni, led by Jabhat Fath al Sham (formerly Al Nusrah before breaking from Al Qaeda) are on the ascendency. Trump correctly stated that ISIS is a threat in over a dozen other countries. But they should not be our primary focus in Syria at this point, which is why there is no reason for us to back up Assad and Russia. A pox upon all their houses!         

Is it too hard to let Allah sort it out?


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.