John McCain’s Syria Delusions

McCainSyria2Following the president’s announcement that we will provide small arms and ammunition to the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Senator John McCain has intensified his drumbeat for war and demanded even more extensive U.S. involvement, particularly a no-fly zone. But McCain has not indicated any awareness of the risks and complications of such an escalation.

McCain’s argument is the typical one made by “responsibility to protect” internationalists like Samantha Power, Obama’s new U.N. ambassador, whom McCain supported despite her record of anti-Israel animus and doubts about America’s worthiness. But we can’t stand by and watch Assad slaughter his people, the interventionists claim. Except we have stood by on numerous occasions, in Congo, Sudan, and Rwanda, to name just a few venues of slaughter. We are standing by right now as Christians in the Middle East are being murdered, assaulted, harassed, and cleansed from lands that have been Christian for two millennia. We are standing by as al-Qaeda in Iraq slaughters its political and sectarian rivals, and we will for sure be standing by in Afghanistan when the Taliban slaughter even more enemies after we depart in 2014.

The lofty notion of “responsibility to protect” is a fraud, for the fact is we can’t protect every victim of global violence and oppression. This means that our national interests and security can be the only reasons for an armed intervention.

Of course, McCain et al. argue that our interests are at risk, and that providing weapons or even a no-fly zone offers little danger to our soldiers. An Assad victory, so the argument goes, will also be a victory for Iran and its proxies like Hezbollah. But Iran’s real achievement will be the possession of nuclear weapons, which will change the geostrategic calculus in the Middle East much more than Assad’s holding on to power. If we’re concerned about Iran, then, we should be focusing on the regime’s nuclear weapons program, which day by day relentlessly progresses to fulfillment. It’s not Iran’s proxies we should worry about, but Iran.

Nor should the apparent ease with which the U.S.––excuse me, NATO––toppled the Gaddafi regime fool us into thinking we can do the same in Syria. The odds of civilian casualties, for example, will be much greater in Syria if we attack Assad’s air defense system. Once the videos of dead children amidst the rubble hit the international media, how long will all those “allies” still be in our corner? And what about Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons? What if he responds by unleashing them against his enemies? And will Russia simply stand by while we bomb its ally’s assets that it provided to them? Perhaps Putin will decide to send the promised S-300 missiles after all. There are all sorts of risks and contingencies, and unless we have a plan to deal with them that puts all our assets on the table, including ground troops, we could make the situation even worse.

Equally bad, McCain doesn’t really know to whom he is eager to give sophisticated weapons. Clearly the most effective and dedicated fighters are to some degree Islamist in ideology, ranging from Muslim Brotherhood affiliates to al-Qaeda franchises like the al Nusra front, which has already pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda headman Ayman al-Zawahri. Jihadists from Europe and across the Middle East are streaming to Syria, where they are getting valuable battlefield experience. The so-called “moderate” Syrian Free Army, the force comprising mostly army defectors, has made it clear they will cooperate with the al-Nusra fighters and anybody else committed to destroying Assad’s regime. Do we really think that if they win, they will then turn their guns on their allies?

And what makes McCain think that weapons delivered to “vetted” groups––assuming that there is any way to definitively establish that they are “moderate”–– will be kept out of the hands of jihadist gangs that are sworn enemies of the U.S. and Israel? We’ve already suffered blowback in Benghazi from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals in the four coffins of dead Americans. The Syrian rebels have asked for anti-aircraft weapons, as these are necessary for countering Assad’s air superiority. So we’re going to provide weapons that can bring down commercial airliners to committed jihadists? In 1979 we hadn’t yet been sufficiently awakened to the terrorist threat from jihadists, so providing the mujahidin with the means to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan made sense. But we know now the nature of the enemy, and so should be a little more prudent.

No one pressing for intervention in Syria has confronted the fact that even if defeating Iran and its proxies is critical to our national interests, arming a congeries of different jihadist groups and imposing no-fly zones are not going to accomplish that aim. It will take a much larger, more intrusive force, including troops on the ground, to defeat Assad, secure his chemical weapons arsenals, and marginalize the jihadists. After our experience in Iraq and the failure of political nerve that has kept us from achieving similar aims, good luck reprising that experiment in Syria.

But even if Assad is driven out just by airpower and arming rebels, what sort of government does McCain think will arise out of these various Islamist factions? As Barry Rubin points out, our choice in Syria “will be one of Sunni anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites rather than Shia anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites.” Whatever it is, it’s not going to be a liberal democracy friendly to us and our interests, if what’s going on in Egypt is any indication. The most likely outcome will be Libya on steroids, with large swaths of the country available for sheltering jihadist camps right next door to Israel and Jordan.

And so live on the delusions of Middle East “democracy” promotion, a consequence of wishful thinking rather than analysis of reality. And so continues the baleful influence of John McCain on our foreign policy. His demonizing of waterboarding helped to eliminate one of the most effective tools for extracting intelligence, with the result that now we have no effective means for gleaning intelligence from captured terrorists. And his naïve faith in the magic powers of “democracy” to change a culture steeped in 14 centuries of religious intolerance, supremacism, and violence promises to repeat in Syria the empowerment of jihadist regimes we’re witnessing in Egypt. We’ll be living with the consequences of those delusions for a long time.

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  • WhiteHunter

    Not sure how many times the lesson must be taught before the likes of McCain and Obama finally pay attention and learn it.

    The template should be the Iran-Iraq War, where one monster (Saddam) fought another monster (Khomeini) to bloody exhaustion while we stood aside at a safe distance and enjoyed the show as the two savages clawed one another’s eyes out for ten years and killed a million of one another’s troops and civilians in the process–without the waste of a single American life or dollar. It kept them too preoccupied with one another to think about what they’d otherwise being doing to us.

    Western-style secular democracy simply doesn’t work among “people” (and I use the term sarcastically) to whom the very idea of it is anathema; they’re glandularly incapable of grasping the concept, must less valuing and practicing it. Isn’t that obvious by now, after the experience of Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and every other Arab/Persian/Muslim cesspool in the Middle East?

    Enough of our boys have come home sans arms and legs, or in coffins, in our feckless efforts to civilize the savages, and gotten nothing for freeing them of their home-grown dictators and cutthroat maniacs except their hate for us. Do McCain and Obama seriously believe that this time will be different? How so?

    • davarino

      yes, I agree, let them duke it out till they have reduced their numbers. That being said, if what they are doing is arming the underdog just to even things out then I’m all for it. We need to keep this thing going. If the “rebels” start getting the upper hand then arm Assad, and so forth. Just make sure niether side wins : )

    • EarlyBird

      I could not have put it better, White Hunter. McCain truly is a war monger, an old style throwback who believes that wherever our enemies exist on a battlefield (in this instance, Iran) we are honor-bound to confront them. But this is a wonderful chance to let Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian Islamist rebels bleed themselves dry for a generation. Oh, and the Russians are going to be saying “blowback” in Russian fairly soon, too.
      McCain just wants another war, and Powers (and Kerry and the Clintons) and other liberal internationalists are really arguing for old school “engagement” on behalf of the same national security/military complex that McCain is part of.
      The only silver lining I can see in arming the rebels is that recently Assad has made considerable gains against them. We don’t want any side to “win.” Keeping the rebels alive a bit longer would be a good thing.

  • DannyJeffrey

    R2P is part of the Soros agenda and “Traitor” McCain is all too glad to oblige. He and others of the Progressive persuasion are pushing us into WWIII and thanks to Kerry’s recent illegal donation of 1.3 billion to Egypt, Morsi has now joined the cry for a no fly zone over Egypt. The cauldron begins to boil.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    What I want to know is if the writer voted for McCain during his presidential campaign?

    Anyway, McCain has been one of Islam’s biggest useful idiots since Clinton’s “Wag The Dog” War against the Christian Serbs in Kosovo, which not only turned Kosovo into the first Islamic state in Europe but also at the same time tuned Russia into an enemy because America betrayed what were heretofore our former allies the Christian Serbs by fighting a jihad on behalf of the Islamic world against them. Indeed, ever since Reagan left office, our foreign policies have truly been insane.

  • cecil91

    Unfortunately, John has remained on the political shelf way past his expiration date. Like any other commodity with an expired date, he just keeps sliding into irrelevance.

  • antisharia

    Rule number one of geopolitics: don’t get involved in civil wars. McCain is an honorable man, at least I think so. But he couldn’t be more wrong. We have no interests in Syria. We have a brutal dictatorial regime fighting rebels who want to replace it with another brutal dictatorial regime, perhaps even more brutal than the Baathists currently in charge. If we have the responsibility to intervene then why didn’t we intervene in crisis’s that were far worse, say the Rwandan genocide? We sat that one out. This war is starting to turn into a regional conflict. I don’t know if it will escalate to the point of the shiites and the sunni nations of the region using Syria as a battleground by sending in their own armies, but even if it doesn’t go that far this is shaping up to be a real mess, one that the US can’t clean up, doesn’t have the responsibility to clean up, and should just avoid.

  • HappyDog1

    McCain lusts for pushing the new world order upon everyone… a coming one-world government. Was his mind changed in the Hanoi Hilton?

  • sapphire_407

    I have always admired John McCain, but his thinking is outdated. Most Americans learned a tough lesson when we invaded Iraq. Those people hated each other for centuries and we cannot change that.

  • Gee

    If they truly want to protect people – why don’t start with America’s murder capital – Chicago. They have already disarmed the lawful citizens but not the criminals.

    Now they want to arm terrorists.

    Where is the logic?

  • AZ WI

    John McCain is a sick and dangerous monster. There’s no doubt that John McCain is trying to get us involved in numerous wars, He’s a war loving warmongering old fool that should be ignored and run out of Washington. He certainly is NO military or foreign affairs experts. He’s just an old bitter warmonger!

  • The Dead Critic

    Why do these OLD SODS remain in office? NARCISSISM. We need TERM LIMITS to prevent these politico wh*res from staying in office.

  • AZ WI

    When you get to be McCain’s age you do get delusional, but in McCain’s case he been delusional all his life. McCain is now a sick old dangerous warmongering monster, that’s determined to get us involved in numerous ground wars. To satisfy his a lust for senseless wars and senseless bloodshed. Why Obama is listening to the old warmonger is beyond me. For one McCain is certainly NO military or foreign affairs expert. Two the country already soundly defeated McCain is his own disastrous presidential run.

  • Omar

    It is obvious that Mr McCain has problems mentally. He is almost 95 and it is showing. His father was an honorable man and it is good that he cannot see what his son has degenerated down into. An appeaser. A boot kisser. It is terrible that after being in talks about changing parties that Republicans then awarded the traitor with the nomination to run as president. That is like offering Wiener the CEO slot at Girl Scouts. He is a loser who’s place in history will be along side Kennedy, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the abortion mill robots.

  • drthomasedavis

    PoorJohn: he is under some misguided notion that his long imprisonment and service in the US Navy make him an expert in affairs Militaire. John, retire take a well-deserved rest. You have devolved into that most disgusting of citizens, the RINO. You have lost all sense of reality and of Right v Wrong. It is your kind who have brought about the downfall of Lincoln’s Republican Party.

  • DannyJeffrey

    I have to disagree with everyone who has expressed the view that McCain’s actions are due to aging and incompetence. That man knows exactly what he is doing and could care less about the outcome. Responsibility To Protect is a Soros agenda and unto the master McCain is true. He, Lindsey Graham, and until he retired Joe Lieberman were engaged in a political ploy with Obama. Their role was to advocate military intervention and accuse Obama of “Leading from behind”. RINOs and Obama work well together to promote the Soros goals.

    We have nothing to gain, and everything to lose by intervening in Syria. Since the goal of that intervention is the furtherance of the New Caliphate and the weakening of America, it will continue.

  • Robert Lockwood

    This is what John MacCain supports?!

    What the hell is wrong with him?

  • Arf

    McCain is suffering from dementia and shame that he so spinelessly pretended to campaign for President. He thinks he can make up for it by championing an insane cause. Why can’t he just get a heart attack and …..

  • Glyndwyr

    The very worst part of Sen. McCain’s proposed policy is that it might SUCCEED! That is not likely, but nothing is ever certain in war. And that policy in succeeding would deliver WMDs to radical Islamiists – or, as the Russians so tactlessly call them, terrorists.