The growing discord in Syria once again threatens to entangle the American military in another experiment in nation-building.
Keeping with the traditions (and ignoring the consequences) of the Military-Industrial Complex, the United States is currently engaged in seemingly unending military operations in over a half-dozen nations. These of course include Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the President has also acknowledged military actions in Yemen, Somalia, and also the African countries of Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The next big question is if the West is going to intervene and assist rebels in overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the US and Great Britain helped overthrow Muamarr Gaddafi in Libya in 2011.
The violence in Syria, which the BBC estimates has claimed the lives of 60,000 since March of 2011, has been widely decried in the West. In early December Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the predicted Syrian use of chemical weapons as being a “red line” in the sand, that once crossed would be grounds for UN/US intervention. Top generals in Britain have also signaled the possibility of providing military assistance to the Syrian rebels.
In his first public address since June, Assad recently addressed his nation’s woes by stating:
There are those who seek to partition Syria and weaken it. But Syria is stronger… and will remain sovereign… and this is what upsets the West.
From Assad’s defiant remarks to the predictable responses of Clinton, Obama and the UN alike, the whole situation seems stupidly predictable: The West is poised to once again militarily intervene in the affairs of another Middle Eastern nation.
Much like Mugatu, I feel like I’ve been taking Crazy Pills watching this slow entrenchment into a state of permanent war. How is it possible that the US, helmed by equally bloodlust-y Democrats and Republicans, remains utterly incapable of learning from the abundant mistakes of our past?
It’s not as if one has to Indiana Jones these lessons of history from some hidden crypt. The US/UK led coup in Iran in 1953, which re-established the Shah to power, did not prevent the violence and reactionary backlash in that nation, but rather directly contributed to it. The Vietnam War was a prolonged, hellishly painful, and ultimately pointless disaster. The overthrow of the Taliban and installment of President Karzai in Afghanistan has not yielded the stable government we wished to create. Iraq remains a mess nearly a decade after our intervention. The US has sent military forces to central Africa to stabilize threats of terror in that continent, which will likely be just as fruitless.
Despite these recent foreign policy failures, governments still seem prepared and willing to intervene in Syria.
Wait, why shouldn’t the US intervene? It is, by all accounts, a fairly frightful place to call home by Western standards. Tens of thousands of people have died in the last two years alone. The economy is largely nationalized. The Assad regime is known to detain, torture and disappear political dissidents. Shouldn’t I, as a freedom-lovin’ individualist want to liberate the Syrians from their oppressive government?
I certainly want them to become a free people and I am cheering for the rebels to oust Assad and hopefully create a more liberal and open state. I am, however, very wary of the West’s ability to facilitate such a transition.
The relative failure of Iraq and Afghanistan’s new governments stem from the same cause: The nations we interfered with lack the basic institutions that allow our governments to function with at least a modicum of respectability. The ideas of a secular state, governmental transparency and the rule of law took thousands of years to gestate and mature into even semi-workable facsimiles in the West. To think that we can simply plant these republican seeds and expect them to flourish in nations that don’t have the history necessary to properly nourish them is not only laughable, but such expeditions have proven to be exceptionally dangerous and detrimental to cause of long-term liberty.
The United States and the West in general need to simply stop meddling in the affairs of other nations. The cries for intervention in Syria are not even consistent with situations in the rest of the world. If the US were truly principled in this matter, we would have already invaded North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and even China for committing crimes against free society and democracy. We haven’t–and we won’t–because the State Department doesn’t see a payday in those nations that it apparently sees in Syria.
The United States needs to return to the Monroe Doctrine of non-intervention. We need to remain neutral, not because we tacitly support the tyranny in despotic states, but rather because we have learned that interfering actually worsens and prolongs the pain felt in such failing states.
I am not at all naïve enough to believe that such a reversal in US foreign policy is even possible at this stage. Tragically, the American Empire will continue to force its sticky, brass-knuckled fingers into the cookie jars of nations around the world, just like every other empire the world has ever seen. Though not for a long time yet, nations will eventually break and sever these fingers, chipping away our international influence.
The best way for the West to export its brand of freedom and democracy is through non-violence and voluntary free trade. If the US wishes to maintain its global position of military, political and economic dominance, we need to once again embrace liberty and withdraw our imperial intrusions from the rest of the world.