With all the focus on rising gas prices, a sluggish economy, and boring presidential primary campaigns, events in Afghanistan and Syria may have a greater impact than we realize. I am not sure which is worse; an incompetent administration’s foreign-policy or the rush by some within the GOP to involve this nation in another foreign adventure.
The tragic news concerning an American soldier killing 16 innocent civilians is not only an act that is reprehensible but it seems the act may be a consequence of arcane rules of engagement and an increasing pressure to survive the daily grind of warfare in Afghanistan. I am not absolving the soldier of his responsibilities but I believe the situation in Afghanistan to be more complicated than what the media is reporting. We should always keep in mind the events surrounding a similar act several years ago in Haditha, Iraq. Despite being called murderers and war criminals by politicians and the perpetually angry Left, all eight soldiers were found not guilty of murder when all the facts were put on display.
We should always remember that we are fighting an asymmetrical war in Afghanistan. The enemy does not fight us openly nor do they operate under the constraints of the Geneva Convention. The enemy also uses Afghan tribal culture and customs to perpetuate the warfare. For instance, they will pay someone to plant an IED on a roadway; knowing that roadway is monitored by our snipers. When our snipers kill this person, the family and tribe of this person will then join the fight against us to avenge this death and not because they seek a return of the Taliban. Meanwhile, this country attempts to bring Afghanistan into the 21st century. We have made much progress but to date, Afghanistan remains stuck in the 17th century.
In the meantime, President Karzai demands that this soldier be put on a public trial in Kabul and President Obama is quick with an apology.
Karzai has not really been our ally in this fight. He seems more inclined to advance himself over Afghanistan. He has seen the US leave Iraq and abandon allies like Mubarak of Egypt and believes a similar fate awaits him. He has also been influenced by the ISI of Pakistan and the Iranians; both antagonists of the US. Our policy of nation building has been an abysmal failure. I contend the time to leave Afghanistan has been long overdue. I have been quite uncomfortable keeping our forces between a devolving Pakistan to the East and an increasingly aggressive Iran to the West. It should be noted that Pakistan already has nuclear weapons and Iran is working towards the same goal. If the allegations contained in the recent Sunday edition of the German newspaper Die Welt are correct, Iran already possesses a nuclear weapon.
As to Syria, the media is basically reporting that the Assad regime is ruthlessly putting down an “Arab Spring” movement. The genesis of the turmoil in Syria is related to a lack of food and higher prices to attain food. However, the ongoing battle between the Assad regime and its civilians may be a prelude to something much greater.
One common thread in history is the continuing ability and capacity of world leaders and opinion shapers to delude themselves. The refusal of both to accept reality and the limits of their idealism have produced devastating consequences. Recent historical examples include 1914 Europe as well as recent belief that our presence in the Middle East will usher an era of Muslim democracy. As we have seen with events in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, the Obama Administration has taken this delusion to a new level. Unfortunately, I believe this delusion extends to the current situation in Syria, as well as, the recent Israeli-Iranian crisis.
This administration views the world through the eyes of anthropology. They sympathize with the “oppressed” people without a thought to real time events and consequences. Syria is the closest ally of Iran. Iran also has a very close relationship with the groups supporting the overthrow of the Assad regime. There have been recent reports of Iran sending 15,000 of their Qods force to Syria to put down the rebellion. Iranian military involvement in this matter makes very little sense unless you wonder whether there is another purpose for their presence in Syria. The Iranians tend to think asymmetrically. I cannot help but wonder if the Syrians and the Iranians are involving themselves in a joint military operation in the guise of a civil war. I have thoughts and images of the Spanish Civil War where the town of Guernica is now replaced by Homs. The bombing of Guernica in 1937 was the first aerial bombing by the German Luftwaffe. This was considered a practice run for the German military before the invasion of Poland in 1939. Could Syria and Iran be testing military weapons as well as terrorism and asymmetrical warfare on Syrian civilians?
One of the consequences of having a political power structure in which the current events are viewed through anthropological eyes is that they also influence other parts of our government. Thus, we have General James R. Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran has not yet tried to build a nuclear weapon. General David Petraeus, Obama’s CIA director went along with that assessment. It would seem that this administration would risk calamity then ruin a Third World nation like Iran.
There are those like Sen. John S McCain who believe the US has a moral obligation to enter the Syrian theater of operation. I submit that any overt act with regards to Syria on the basis of moral obligation should be deeply rooted in the reality of the moment. This administration’s theory of “Soft Power” should be scrapped until we have an idea who exactly are the rebels and what are the consequences of doing something or doing nothing. I believe we ‘jumped the gun’ with regards to Egypt and Libya. We cannot risk making a similar mistake with regards to Syria. We must watch these events carefully and refrain from making any public comments and predictions as to the future of the regime or offering assistance to the Syrian civilians.
During the late 1940s and 1950s, there was a question floating around DC. The question it seemed everyone was asking was; “Who lost China?”. I hope in the near future we will not be asking; “Who lost the Middle East?”