Lately, I've been posting op-eds and editorials from the "liberal" Washington Post about Syria because it shows how strong is the consensus of Left-Right elite opinion in America that the U.S. Government must be actively involved and "leading" in every conflict zone in the world, but especially in the Middle East.
The good news is, 70 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. sending weapons to Syria's "good" rebels. Only 20 percent favor it.
Whereas elite U.S. opinion makers believe that President Obama should "lead" on Syria, which is elite-speak for "ignore public opinion."
Some opinion elites might argue that 80 percent of Americans doesn't really understand what's at stake in Syria. But the onus is on them -- and President Obama, if he wants to get the U.S. military involved -- to explain to us what's at stake. Myself I have been following developments there and I cannot say what vital U.S. interests are at stake in Syria. Sure, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are supporting Assad, but if Assad prevails, then they will have only paid dearly in materiel and diplomatic face to preserve the status quo ante. As noted CNN/Time's Fareed Zakaria, one of the few "big thinkers" on foreign policy in the mainstream media:
Contrary to much of the media commentary, the fact that Iran and Hezbollah are sending militias, arms, and money into Syria is not a sign of strength. It is a sign that they are worried that the Syrian regime might fall and are desperately seeking to shore it up. Keeping them engaged and pouring resources into Syria weakens them substantially.
Unlike Iran and Hezbollah, Russia might yet enjoy the additional moral satisfaction of having publicly stood up to America and gotten its way, but so what? Let Russia choose its battles; we'll choose ours.
Even if we believe some of our interests are at stake in Syria, we now understand too well the potential for sectarian war, U.S. escalation, and eventual terrorist blowback in our faces. So far, the costs of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan have far outweighed any benefits. And two years after Gadhafi's death and NATO intervention, Libya is a tribal-sectarian basketcase. Why should Syria be any different?
Some pundits are still trying their best to convince us. For example, WaPo's Jim Hoagland actually warned us, quoting an unnamed French diplomat, "that a loss of U.S. credibility in Syria will encourage Iran to intensify its quest for nuclear weapons." Really? If we don't get involved in Syria then Iran will develop nuclear weapons? Gimme a break!
This argument is the last refuge of neoconservative scoundrels. Think what he's saying: the U.S. must lead in every instance or forfeit its right to lead in necessary instances. This is the road to empire, overreach and collapse.
Hoagland's main cheapshot argument is that Obama is worried about his presidential legacy: Obama wants to be known for getting us out of two wars, not starting a third one in Syria. But even if it's true, what's so wrong with that?
It's too bad Hoagland and the Washington Post's editorial board don't read the Washington Post's news section:
The difference this time is that the mobilization [of foreign fighters] has been stunningly rapid — what took six years to build in Iraq at the height of the U.S. occupation may have accumulated inside Syria in less than half that.
For Syria's neighbors, the conflict in Syria has become a Sunni-Shia regional war by proxy. And the U.S. is injecting itself into this sectarian divide, taking the Sunnis' side... that incidentally includes al-Qaeda.
Next, let's take the "liberal" New York Times' Thomas Friedman, America's biggest "big thinker" on foreign policy, (God help us). In his latest op-ed, Friedman gives two options for U.S. actions in Syria. Conspicuously, not arming the rebels is not one of those options. This is how elite opinion-makers do their black magic: they give a sense of inevitability to U.S. military action.
Friedman actually describes the "idealist approach" to Syria (option #2) as putting U.S. boots on the ground and doing another Iraq debacle, er, occupation. This is what "idealists" want in Tom Friedman's mind! Who are these people?!
Next, for the record let's note that the "liberal" Chicago Tribune also supports America's arming Syria's "good" rebels. But the Tribune holds onto the very slim hope that those arms will force a stalemate and Syria's President Assad to the negotiating table. (I should note that the Tribune's owner, McClatchy Newspapers, has been doing excellent reporting on Syria.)
Likewise the "liberal" Boston Globe also agrees with President Obama's decision to arm Syria's rebels, although it urges mommy-like "caution" and "care" in doing so: "Now you be careful playing with those guns, rebels! Don't shoot at anybody who doesn't shoot at your first. And remember, we're not giving these weapons to you because we hate Shiites; and don't give them to terrorists!" Pathetic.
Some of you may say I'm getting too worked up about a few U.S. weapons to Syria. Maybe so. Maybe this is a classic Obama maneuver: appearing to do something while actually doing nothing. According to the New York Times, "Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement."
However, once he involves the U.S. and puts his and our nation's credibility on the line, President Obama will be under immense international pressure and pressure from Congress to turn the tide against Assad's forces. Then he (we) could be "dragged into an escalating level of support: from light arms to anti-tank weapons to a no-fly zone and so on" ... and so forth, up to putting U.S. boots on the ground -- the "idealist" outcome for the Friedmanites, but the nightmare scenario for Americans.