COMMENTARY | The Middle East is not going the way the U.S. wants it to go. Iraq is trembling on the edge of collapse as ISIS rebels wrest town after town from Iraq’s military. Syria, meanwhile, has seen a reversal of fortunes in its civil war, with dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces back on top. Last year, after the U.S. failed to act when Assad crossed the “redline” by using chemical weapons, a tentative “peace deal” between Assad and the West was brokered by Russia. Now the U.S. wants to take a second look at the situation in Syria, with the Obama administration asking Congress for $500 million to train and equip more “moderate” elements of the Syrian opposition, reports CNN.
Congress should resoundingly refuse to approve this funding on the grounds that even “moderate” Syrian rebels are likely far too cozy with ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other nefarious groups. The fluidity of the situation in the Middle East almost guarantees that money spent to fund military operations will not achieve any positive result. Bashar al-Assad is a tyrant, but the rebels have hardly proven to be any better. Many are violent Islamists. Ironically, many of the “Syrian” rebels we praised in 2013 are likely the same insurgents attacking the U.S.-equipped Iraqi military in 2014.
If we want to pacify Syria we must do it ourselves. In Iraq we are seeing the results of just sending money and equipment and letting local forces handle their own security…it has been a pitiful display. Untold amounts of expensive U.S. equipment have been abandoned by fleeing Iraqi forces, left operational in the hands of the insurgents. Do we really want to risk sending U.S. equipment to Syrian rebels, not knowing whether or not it will quickly fall into the hands of Assad’s military? Or, probably worse, end up diverted to ISIS and Al Qaeda?
As for doing it ourselves, do we really want another Middle East adventure after almost a decade in Iraq? Unless we are willing to commit boots on the ground, which the president has declared he will never do, we would just be flushing money down the proverbial toilet. For better or worse, U.S. boots on the ground is the only medicine that will cure the disease, not temporarily treat some of the symptoms. All other options, even direct airstrikes, are akin to stopgap measures. Yet we keep proposing such measures, afraid to be deemed cowardly if we do nothing yet lacking the guts or gall to go all the way and send troops.
We need to pick a policy: All or nothing. Do we want to stop al-Assad and his chemical weapons, of which he has allegedly divested himself, or do we allow him to remain in power? Send in troops or stay away? $500 million for “training and equipment” is a middle-of-the-road waste of money. We should use that money for jobs here at home or put it toward sending genuine U.S. forces that will genuinely handle the problem of al-Assad.