Sunday, September 8, 2013
Syria--US Disagreement by (O)CT(O)PUS of The Swash Zone
I'm reposting this from The Swash Zone because I think more people need to read it and think about it.
Even within families, there is serious disagreement over current Syria strategy. I refer to a conversation last night with my oldest daughter.
First some background: My daughter is a high-ranking officer assigned to the Pentagon with substantial Mid-East experience: 4 deployments totaling 8 years on the ground (in Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, as examples), starting with the first Gulf War (1990-91).
Her viewpoint: Stay out. Why? No matter how bloody and violent, no matter how unconscionable, no matter how sectarian and divided, virtually all peoples of the region – including combatants fighting amongst themselves – share a unanimity of attitude: They demand the right of self-determination and prefer to be masters of their own fate without the intervention of former colonial powers. After the first Gulf War, George Herbert Walker #41 made this blunder. He kept a residual U.S. force stationed in Saudi Arabia – often cited by al-Qaeda as a motive for targeting U.S. interests (recall the Khobar Towers bombing incident). All sides in these various and sundry Mid-East conflicts share the same xenophobia.
Acknowledging her point, I raised another issue: Mid-East conflicts have metastasized cancer-like beyond the region; witness the spate of terrorist incidents spanning 4 continents. IOW, when regional conflicts spill into our territory and put our citizens at risk, we have a compelling national security interest at stake.
Her reply: We should make every effort to protect our citizens and maintain security within our borders; but we should avoid another Archduke Ferdinand moment that may draw us into deeper, more protracted, and more costly conflicts. After decades of supplying arms to our so-called allies in the region - such as Saudi Arabia - the time has come for regional powers to get their own house in order and do some heavy lifting, she says.
My response: Too late. We cannot re-write history and reset the clock of Mid-East perceptions. In the past half-century, various governments have used American foreign policy as a scapegoat – for reasons both right and wrong – to cover their own failings. Since the cancer of Mid-East conflicts have metastasized worldwide - and Western interests are often in the crosshairs of these conflicts - we have little choice but to intervene.
Our discussion in a nutshell: A perfectly civil and reasonable exchange of views between father and daughter – now shared with readers of this forum. How ironic! General Daughter shuns military involvement; formerly Pacifist Dad makes a case for intervention.
As thorny and nettlesome as this Syria issue has become, it should not turn into another partisan slugfest. By all means, argue the merits but avoid the temptation to engage in wanton and gratuitous Obama-bashing. Mid-East conflicts have vexed 11 U.S. presidents since Eisenhower. So please be forewarned: If you gang up on President #44, this cephalopod will ink your aquarium and drown you in torrents of citations and references. To quote the estimable Wednesday Addams: “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”