Saturday, March 26, 2011


Please Explain

This morning I heard a U.S. ambassador very cogently explain why the U.S is involved in another military action in the Middle East.  He explained that the country is ruled by a terrible tyrant, that the people have bravely risen up against the tyrant, that we support their quest for basic human rights and dignity, that the tyrant threatened to massacre his opponents, and that only our intervention would prevent a humanitarian disaster. 

The ambassador convinced me.  I agree with him that we should be standing up for the people trying to throw off the chains of bondage in . . . . Iran and Syria.  Whoops.  I meant Libya.  It's just that I am downright confused.  All the arguments the ambassador made for involvement in Libya apply equally if not more to Iran and Syria and, for that matter, to the Ivory Coast and probably a dozen  other countries where despots rule.

In contrast to Libya, there are real strategic reasons to be involved in Iran and Syria, beyond our sympathies for the oppressed.  Iran is developing nuclear weapons, it isclearly on a campaign to dominate the region, and it has clearly stated its intention to commit genocide of six million Jews.  It supports and directs some of the worst terrorists in the world.  It intimidates, often controls, and sometimes causes havoc in Lebanon.

Syria is a weak imitation of Iran.  It tried to develop nuclear weapons with the aid of North Korea.  It brutally oppresses its citizens, and it is now murdering those who dare to speak out against it. It likely has chemical weapons.  The evidence to date shows that the young President Assad is quite likely to follow his brutal father in using whatever means are necessary to hold onto power. 

The Syrians dominated Lebanese politics for years and continue to interfere in that nation.  They are responsible for the assassination of a former president of Lebanon and for the murders and intimidation of many other Lebanese leaders.  They serve as a conduit for thousands of rockets coming from Iran to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, in violation of the UN resolution ending the last Israel-Lebanon war and clearly for use against Israeli civilians when Iran gives the green light. 

Despite all this, our reaction to brave Iranians standing up to protest a rigged election was, to put it mildly, much less supportive than our reaction to the strategically irrelevant Qaddafi.  Indeed, if memory serves correctly, at the outset President Obama compared the differences between the Iranian opposition's leaders and the current dictators as something akin to twiddle dee and twiddle dum or ying and yang or some other similarly diplomatic term.  The Administration's response to the quickly crushed protests by some very brave Iranians on the first anniversary of the elections was a bit more substantial but still nothing like the muscle of the U.S. jets targeting Qaddafi's military.

When it comes to Syria, we have gone to great lengths to "reach out" and bring Assad, a brutal ruler if there ever was one, into the "family of nations"  (Have you ever heard of a funnier oxymoron than the "family of nations?" God help anyone whose family is as non-family-like as that one).  Receiving nothing in return, we sent a much-wanted ambassador to Damascus.  Any number of American officials call upon and seemingly fawn on Assad in the course of a few months.  Senator John Kerry seems to be there so often that I would suggest that it might be time for a second home.

Yet Assad continues to poke his finger in our eye and to foment trouble for the U.S. and our allies at every possible opportunity.  And now he is trying to suppress his opposition with the same unmerciful violence that characterized his late dad.  There was much speculation when the younger Assad took power that he would be much more enlightened and Western oriented because he was educated in the West.  Just goes to prove that you can be educated as an opthamologist and still be a fanatical, Jew-hating, murderous dictator.  With apologies to opthamologists, the roles don't seem to be mutually exclusive in this particular case.

So, I would ask our well-spoken ambassador, why Libya, where the opposition is repressed and threatened with death but where we have no strategic interests, and not Iran, Syria and other countries where the opposition is repressed and threatened and we have huge strategic interests?  I cannot come up with an answer other than the one I came up with in my March 20th post:  Libya is a third or fourth rate power and Quadafi is an unlikeable nutcase with no friends anywhere.  In short, there is no downside to taking him out.  Apparently, that is the basis for our making major policy decisions about where to go to war. 

If our ambassador or anyone else has a better answer, I would love to hear it.

1 comment:

  1. The Libyan opposition succeeded in creating a serious challenge to the regime with massive non-violence. The strength of the movement was sufficient to induce defections from the Libyan military. While the opposition lacks the hardware and training to stand up to Gaddafi's forces, it may well prevail if external force makes it a more even fight. Moreover, the opposition in Libya has pleaded for an international air campaign, which has also been invited by the Arab League. None of these conditions is present in any of the other cases cited. Intervention in Syria or Iran would be an invasion as misguided as I believe are those in Iraq and Afghanistan.