The United States will directly intervene in the ongoing Syrian civil war, but that doesn’t mean the Obama Administration is happy about it.
The U.S. confirmed on Thursday that the government of Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons against rebel fighters. This crosses what President Barack Obama has called a “red line,” a point at which the U.S. must intervene.
American involvement has been growing more likely in recent weeks, as Russia continues to arm the Assad regime, and as pro-Iranian fighters from Lebanon enter the country to fight on Assad’s side. Still, the U.S. government doesn’t sound particularly thrilled to be engaging in yet another military struggle in the Arab world.
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that imposing a no-fly zone “would carry with it great and open-ended costs for the United States and the international community. It’s far more complex to undertake the type of effort, for instance, in Syria than it was in Libya.”
Unlike Libya, Syria is geographically situated at the crossroads of the Middle East. Bordering on Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Israel, Syria is of significant strategic importance. With Lebanon still recovering from its brutal civil war, and Iraq still fighting a low-level civil war sparked by the American invasion of the country, the future stability of the country is of vital importance.
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has been hesitant to engage in the civil war. This is in no small part because the rebels have their share of terrorists and radicals among them. This was thrown into stark contrast when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visiting with rebels to spur support for intervention, accidentally met with Mohammad Nour, who is part of a group that kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims in 2012.
Frankly, I appreciate that the Obama Administration is moving into Syria carefully and grudgingly. The United States is battle-weary. We fought two wars in the last decade, at least one of which was a tragic, pointless waste at best.
War should not be engaged in carelessly, nor welcomed eagerly. If Assad is using chemical weapons against his citizens, then Obama is right — that is not something the international community can condone. We cannot sit idly by while a leader uses weapons of mass destruction against his own people.
But that doesn’t mean we should celebrate our engagement, nor that we must rush in blindly. The United States is going to join France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming rebels. We may put together a no-fly zone. We’re not, however, going to send our troops in to go fight the evil-doing evil-doer. It may lack the panache of a splendid little war — but then, that’s exactly the point.
Image Source: DoumaRevolution/Flickr