On Friday, the government let it be known that a small number of U.S. military personnel will be directly involved in the war in Syria. This is a dangerous first step that could lead to very bad results.
The Syrian crisis is, in part, the product of wrong policies of destabilization and regime change that our country needs to abandon. Such policies have led to disastrous involvements in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Without defending the governments which our country overthrew in those countries, it is clear by now that the vast destruction, hundreds of thousands of deaths (many of them of women, children and other innocent civilians) and millions of refugees that they have produced have not made the world a safer place for anybody, including the people of the United States.
Making matters even worse, the U.S. military operations have had the effect of stimulating recruitment to Al Qaeda, ISIS and other violent groups.
When Russia began to intervene actively in Syria, some began to call for the United States to establish a no-fly zone in Northern Syria. We found this proposal very alarming because it created the very real possibility that, in enforcing the no-fly zone, U.S. military aircraft would end up clashing directly with Syrian or even Russian aircraft. This would greatly increase the danger of a wider war in the region as well as jacking up tensions between Washington and Moscow with all sorts of detrimental effects. So we were pleased when President Obama announced that he opposed such a no-fly zone.
Yet now our worries are back because of the news that some 50 U.S. military personnel will be sent directly into the Syrian situation. That there will be “only” 50 soldiers does not assuage our concern. Syria is a sovereign, independent country which, no matter what we think about its government, has not attacked the United States, yet we are told that the U.S. troops will be sent in to provide support for “moderate rebels” who are supposedly fighting simultaneously against the Syrian government forces and those of ISIS and/or Al Qaeda.
Serious doubts have been cast on the viability of these supposedly “moderate” rebels as a genuine fighting force. Those who have any historical memory also know about “mission creep” leading to disastrous involvement of more and more troops in increasingly direct combat roles.
It is time to recognize that it is not for the United States to decide who should govern Syria, a role that belongs to the Syrian people alone, and to work, along with Russia, Iran, and the other regional states for a peaceful solution to the Syria situation.
Photo: Syrian refugee boys help their mother in breaking wood to be added under a fire to boil water outside their family’s tent at a refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Oct. 28. The United Nations said Tuesday the worsening conflict in Syria has left 13.5 million people in need of aid and some form of protection, including more than six million children. AP Photo | Hassan Ammar