Exclusive: Washington’s armchair warriors are pounding the drums for a major U.S. military escalation in Syria but a new report shows there’s little reason to think that would help, writes Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
The recent call by 51 dissenting State Department officials for U.S. military escalation in Syria is merely one of dozens of similar demands by neoconservatives and anguished liberals who accuse President Obama of moral failure for not dictating peace in Syria at the end of a gun.
At almost the same time as the dissent went public, in fact, the hawkish Center for New American Security issued similar recommendations under the auspices of Michele Flournoy, Hillary Clinton’s likely pick for Secretary of Defense. Its report called for more “arming and training” of anti-government rebels, launching of “limited military strikes” against the Assad regime, and eliminating “artificial manpower limitations” on military missions in the country.
Critics warn that such policies would violate international law, in the absence of any United Nations authorization for intervention, and risk a dangerous confrontation with Russia. But the slew of reports, speeches and columns calling for “limited” and “judicious” military escalation have an even bigger flaw: they never make even the slightest case for thinking such interventions could work.
Their claims reflect magical thinking. Champions of intervention cling to the wishful belief that if the world’s one superpower wants something badly enough, we must be able to attain it. But as our disastrous experiences in Iraq and Libya — not to mention Vietnam — should have made abundantly clear to any sentient being, America simply lacks the capability to find and empower suitable local partners and then dictate political outcomes.
Our experience in Syria itself should have made the same lesson clear. President Obama ordered the Pentagon to spend $500 million to “train-and-equip” anti-regime “moderates.” The program graduated all of 54 recruits, most of whom were promptly kidnapped by the local Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra (possibly at the instigation of Turkey). Similarly, U.S. arms for “moderate” rebels have consistently fallen into the hands of al-Nusra.
A Contradictory Report
But don’t take my word for it. Consider the spectacularly contradictory new report by the “progressive” Century Foundation, called “The Case for a More Robust U.S. Intervention in Syria.” Despite its conventional recommendations, author Thanassis Cambanis offers reason after reason to question how U.S. escalation could possibly make things better.
As Cambanis admits, the Obama administration has been “funding, training, and arming parts of the opposition” for several years now. And he acknowledges that “Most of the armed opposition has survived only because of foreign intervention — the exceptions being the most distressing elements: Islamic State and Nusra.”
Unfortunately, he adds, Washington’s favored allies are “disconnected from the most important groups doing the fighting and delivering services in rebel-controlled territory.”
Some Kurdish groups — bitterly opposed by Turkey — have shown great prowess in the field. But America’s favored local force, the Free Syrian Army, is a mish-mash of “citizens’ militias, local mafia and gangster groupings, and semi-professional forces” whose promise “never materialized,” Cambanis writes. “Free Syrian Army brigades remain as bitterly fragmented today as they were in 2011–12 — perhaps even more so. No amount of cajoling by the United States . . . has persuaded even the most minute brigades to submit to an umbrella command.”
Worse yet, “Many Free Syrian Army groups have been guilty of corruption, brutality, torture, and other crimes,” Cambanis writes………
Honduras, Mafia Putsch Hillary Clinton
State Department spokesman John Kirby repeatedly said he has not heard “credible evidence” of “deaths ordered by the military.”