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.Barkey goes on to point out that:
Both arguments are unfortunately wrong.
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.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.
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.
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.