Any time we witness injustice and atrocity anywhere around the world, we suffer with those afflicted and we yearn to help alleviate their anguish. This is certainly the case as the Syrian Civil War descends ever deeper into chaos and brutality. But the way in which our country can best assist the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of forces loyal to the decidedly maniacal dictator Bashar al Assad and the indeterminately allied rebels opposing him may not be to enter the fray. We have myriad examples of how poorly that pans out in extremely recent memory. While it is wrenching to watch from afar and do little, it may well be wretched to get involved; it may well do more harm than good. Engaging in the Syrian conflict might…
5 Shatter International Relationships
Let’s be honest: the Obama Administration’s attempted “reset” of relations between the United States and Russia has essentially failed. See the asylum granted to Edward Snowden as exhibit A. But while the relationship with our former foe has been frosty for years, what we have not recently dealt with is fighting a proxy war against them. That didn’t go well in Korea or in Vietnam. And arming others to do our fighting didn’t wind up working out in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Oh and also there’s that other Syria-backer you might have heard of, a little country named China. We might want to stay on the best possible terms with them, also.
4 Create a Regional Power Vacuum
While Syria is in an almost all-out state of war, it is actually not yet near collapse. There is still a viable (if far from acceptable) government in place, one with which diplomacy and communication is still possible. See the Assad regime’s recent agreement to let UN inspectors into Damascus for evidence of this. If we were to hasten the collapse of the regime, especially with such a fractious coalition allied against it, there would be little chance of establishing stability for a long while to come, and into that unstable morass would rush opportunistic, self-interested players.
3 Further Damage American International Prestige
For much of the 20th century, America was seen as the proverbial City on the Hill, to borrow a metaphor from St. Augustine. We were the righteous protectors of the downtrodden worldwide after WWII, a reputation we managed to maintain with only some blemish despite Vietnam, Panama and other debacles. At the dawn of the new millennium, after the attacks of 9/11, we again enjoyed near-global goodwill and support. Briefly. The interminable quagmire that is our engagement in Afghanistan and the savage, near-pointless war we created (and then left behind) in Iraq have badly tarnished the American reputation. Another ill-conceived, endless war would be a terrible worsening of that stain.
2 Cost US Taxpayers Billions
We hate to think about money at a time when people are suffering and dying, but the fact is that we can’t run our country without it, and if we can’t run our country, we can’t be of help to anyone, domestic or abroad. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have cost between $4 and $6 trillion. It is impossible to say how much a new war would cost, of course, but if either of these regionally similar conflicts are any indication it would be another huge blow to America’s already debt-ridden treasury.
1 Kill Countless Numbers of People
If America joins the conflict against the Syrian regime, lots of people will die; it’s as simple as that. But those who will die and the way in which that will happen? That’s more complicated. Even the most “surgical” options at our disposal, such as using targeted cruise missiles in retaliatory strikes after the regime’s purported use of WMD will likely kill many innocent people. A larger attack or even a full-scale invasion would surely lead to huge numbers of dead bodies, many of them civilians. Our involvement (along with that of allies, for the record—we would surely not go it alone) could create a much larger war and thus many more deaths. And even in the best-case scenario of active US/NATO involvement, if the conflict ended swiftly with Assad’s overthrow, inevitably many of the advanced weapons proffered to the rebels and left behind by (or stolen from) the allied forces would fall into the hands of militant groups and would be used in future regional fighting or even in terrorist attacks.