Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Should We Intervene in Syria?

There are terrible atrocities occurring in Syria perpetrated by Assad regime. Should we intervene to stop them? A Lehigh University professor of international relations named Henri Barkey offers several reasons in a Washington Post essay why intervention, at least overt intervention, is a bad idea. He writes:
Calls for a U.S. military intervention in Syria have dominated the conversation in conventional and social media. Two simple and effective arguments are being advanced. The first, and most compelling, is that the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe befalling the Syrian people mandates international action. The second is based on realpolitik: Supporting the just and winning cause of the Syrian rebels will put the United States in good standing with the regime that emerges from the conflict.

Both arguments are unfortunately wrong.
Barkey goes on to point out that:
Any U.S. military engagement in Syria would have two important ramifications. First, it would cause casualties, including civilian ones. One should not underestimate how much bombing would be required just to suppress anti-aircraft installations so that the U.S. Air Force could operate in support of the rebels. Furthermore, suppression is not a one-off campaign. It has to be continuous, and the regime is likely to hide many of its air defenses in populated areas, provoking more civilian casualties.

Second, U.S. participation in another war in a Muslim country will serve only to deepen the perception that Washington is trigger-happy about dropping bombs on Muslim populations and regimes. Two years after the conclusion of any U.S. intervention in Syria, what people will remember is that women and children died under American bombardments. Unless a vital national interest of ours is involved, it is time that the United States resist the temptation to bomb another Muslim country, however noble the endeavor may appear.
Barkey elaborates on these themes in his column. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan and probably Iran (and like Libya) there's really no compelling national interest at stake in Syria. Nor is it clear that our help would win us the affection of the world's Muslims. Muslims may be the least grateful people on the planet. After liberating 25 million tyrannized Muslims in Iraq and another 25 million more in Afghanistan, after having rescued millions more from genocide in Bosnia, and after supporting the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt and helping to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya, we're still resented and despised by many of the world's Muslims.

Helping free the beleaguered Syrians from their murderous government would probably do little to change that in the long run.

Moreover, the people we'd be helping are currently being assisted by al Qaeda. We'd essentially be supplying al Qaeda with weapons and combat support in Syria while we're killing them with predator drones in Yemen, Africa, and Pakistan. That doesn't seem to make much sense.

2016 Obama's America

Yesterday I went to see Dinesh D'Souza's documentary on Barack Obama titled 2016: Obama's America. I went to the 12:45 pm showing which might partly explain why my fellow patrons were almost all retirees although I was mildly surprised to see a few adolescents sprinkled amongst the gray-beards and their ladies.

I was also mildly surprised to find the theater about half-full at that hour. When I saw The Dark Knight Rises during the same time slot there were only three or four other people in the audience.

Anyway, when Mr. Obama ran for the presidency in 2008 many people voted for him because he was charismatic and youthful. Many others voted for him because they wanted to make history, helping to elect the first black president. Still others voted for him because they desperately wanted to believe his message of hope and change. I think it's fair to say, though, that few people who voted for him really knew very much about who he was, who the strongest influences on his life were, and what his deepest convictions are.

Now, four years later, his past has been at least partly pieced together and many of those who believe that each of us is shaped by those with whom we surround ourselves, especially in our formative years, are alarmed by the very close associations Mr. Obama has had with an assortment of communists and America-haters. It's as if one were to learn that Mitt Romney's parents were Nazi sympathizers and that he surrounded himself in his teenage years and into his forties with Klansmen and white supremicists. It would certainly make one suspicious, at the very least, of his intentions for the nation.

D'Souza is at pains to be sympathetic to Mr. Obama who, in some respects, had a background similar to his own, and he does very little speculating in this movie. All the information he presents was taken from the President's own book Dreams From My Father or from public records.

According to these sources Mr. Obama's mother, father, friends and his most intimate mentors were, or are, all radical Marxist communists and despisers of America and its history. Most of them worked toward, and talked frequently of, the destruction of the American system, a denouement which they all devoutly wished for and anticipated.

Toward the end of the film the question is posed as to what Mr. Obama would do with a second term unfettered by concerns about reelection. In other words, what would the country look like in 2016 given four more years of the trajectory we're currently on? It's not a comforting picture.

The documentary is never boring, the production quality is good, and it's very informative. Did you know, for instance, that both the President's half-brother, George, as well as his step-father, Lolo Soetero, are/were what would be considered conservatives in the U.S.? In fact, Lolo's conservatism was the reason Obama's mother left him.

D'Souza claims at the outset that however you feel about Barack Obama as a man and as a president one thing is probably true - you don't know him. This documentary goes a long way to correct that lacuna in our understanding of the individual we've chosen to lead our country for the last four years. Anyone who wishes to cast an informed vote this November should see it.