DESPITE BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OBAMA,
KEEPING AMERICA OUT OF SYRIA
MAKES YOU A STATESMAN, NOT A "WUSS"
Recent Bulletin From the Huffington Post:
U.S. Senator John McCain
said on Wednesday, two days after meeting with rebels in Syria, that he is
confident the United States can send weapons to fighters in Syria without the
risk they will fall into the wrong hands.
"We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people,"
McCain said on CNN's program "Anderson Cooper 360."
McCain, a Republican from Arizona, is an outspoken advocate for U.S. military
aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has angrily
denounced Democratic President Barack Obama - McCain's opponent in his failed
2008 presidential race - for shying away from deeper U.S. involvement in the
conflict, which has claimed 80,000 lives.
Critics of some lawmakers' push to arm the rebels have expressed concerns that
weapons could end up in the hands of militants who might eventually end up
using them against the United States or its allies.
But McCain said such radical fighters make up only a small part of the rebels
For example, he said, Syria's Islamist al-Nusra Front, identified as an alias
of al Qaeda in Iraq, accounts for only about 7,000 of the 100,000 fighters
battling the government of Assad.
"Every single day, more and more extremists flow in... "They're
flowing in all the time, these extremists. But they still do not make up a
sizeable portion," the Arizona senator said.”
So, like the Prophet,
Samuel, Sen. McCain has decided to anoint General Salem Idris, leader of the
Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army to be the new dictator of
Syria. Sen. McCain said that he had a
long meeting with Idris and a group of his battalion commanders, and was sure
that the “general” was pro-Western and not likely to throw in his hand with
anti-American extremists, who abound in the area. However, no sooner had McCain departed, at
least three assortments of rebel groups refused to meet in Geneva, on agreed
terms, to discuss a transition from Assad to an uncertain future.
The implicit promise of
Sen. McCain is that if we aid the rebels, a new government will emerge in Syria
that has some semblance of a republic based upon democratic principles. Let’s face it: anyone who expects a more
enlightened, progressive, unified, and merciful indigenous Syrian regime to
supersede Assad (and his late father’s) forty-year dictatorship is like the man
who would buy a horse farm for the milk.
As I have previously explained, while Afghanistan is a country, but not
a nation, Syria is not even a country, in any integrated sense of the word.
It is useful to understand
both Syria and McCain in historical perspective. One of the reasons T.E. Lawrence (“of
Arabia”) was chosen by the British to lead Arab peoples to rise up against
Ottoman Turkey, during World War I, so that the Arabs could be falsely persuaded that the British would
support local self-determination, after the War, was Lawrence’s polyglot
mastery. In “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
(1935 version republished in paperback, 1997, see, passim, pp. 323-330) Lawrence points out that the British post-war
decision to denominate Syria as a country was based merely upon an ancient Roman
identification of a region: in 1919, “Syria” was not even a word in the Arabic
language. According to Lawrence,
Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo were each self-recognized centers of
culture. Homs and Hama disliked each
other, and their prosperity made them “more firmly native, more jealously
native.” The people of Aleppo “fought
and traded more; were more fanatical and vicious; and made most beautiful
things: but all with a dearth of conviction which rendered barren their
The ethnic melting pot
that was Aleppo: “The intensity of their
self-sown patriotism tinged the bulk of the citizens outside them with a color
of local consciousness which was by so much less vivid than the Beirut-acquired
unanimity of Damascus.”
“From childhood the [peoples of Syria] were lawless,
obeying their fathers only from physical fear; and their government later for
much the same reason: yet few races had the respect of the upland Syrian for
customary law. All of them wanted
something new, for with their superficiality and lawlessness went a passion for
politics, a science fatally easy for the Syrian to smatter, but too difficult
for him to master. They were
discontented always with what government they had; such being their
intellectual pride; but few of them honestly thought out a working alternative,
and fewer still agreed upon one.
“In settled Syria there
was no indigenous political entity larger than the village, in patriarchal
Syria nothing more complex than the clan; and these units were informal and
voluntary, devoid of sanction, with heads indicated from the entitled families
only by the slow cementing of public opinion.
All higher constitution was the imported bureau-system of the Turk, in
practice either fairly good or very bad according to the frailty of the human
instrument (generally gendarmes) through which, in the last resort, it worked.”
So we have in Syria the
façade of a country that has “worked” really under only two sets of
circumstances: outside imperial control – by the Romans, the Turks or the
British, or by internal, brutal absolute dictatorship. To the concatenation of internal forces, we
now see the situation further complicated by, rather than the emergence of
democratic dynamics, the intrusion of external forces, including Al-Qaida and
its derivatives, Iran, Hezbollah, and both exogenous Arab and foreign European
influences. Shall we, once again, trust
Sen. McCain’s proven disastrous magical thinking? Just a soupcon of American bombing and arms
and technology and Voila! We gain stability and pro-Western
.Back in 2003, when Sen. McCain was a high ranking member
of the Armed Services Committee, without independently verifying his
information, he advocated a new American war in Iraq. He averred that the troops had been
adequately trained. They had not. He declared that they were battle ready. They were not even being equipped with body
armor. He opined that American motorized
war equipment could cope with local conditions of climate and potential
insurgency. The truth is he had no
conception of how American forces would deal with IED’s. (See, Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker.”) He said the war would be quick and casualties
minimal – based upon a false comparison with the wisely limited goals of the
previous Iraq war, led by people with actual brains in their heads, like Colin
Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and George H.W. Bush. The upshot was an eight year war in Iraq,
where we lost more than 4,500 Americans in preposterous retaliation for the
Saudi murder of nearly three thousand folks on our side on 9/11. Which Iraq had
nothing whatever to do. With. Not to mention, his assurance that Saddam
Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was based upon this borderline demented
character, John McCain’s flights of fancy.
The American armed forces have just raised the
inescapably conservative estimate of innocent Iraqi’s killed from 100,000 to
134,000. I seldom venture to speak for
all Americans, but is it not time to agree that we have killed enough
Moslems? Is it not time to strip away
John McCain’s sanctified status as a national hero to point out that his
mission to Vietnam that was interrupted by the downing of his plane was to kill
innocent Vietnamese women and children?
Is it not time to accuse John McCain of repeatedly trying to engulf the
United States in new wars because he is psychologically damaged and really
wants nothing more than to re-fight Vietnam, any way that he can, with the
silly hope that the outcome will be different?
Could it be that there is more sinister work afoot in
trying to drag Obama into Syria? This
Administration has most wisely, it seems to me, decided to refocus the
extension of our world power to further securing the Pacific basin as a truly
peaceful area where all shipping and air traffic can be assured of freedom of
the seas and freedom of the skies. We
are now marshaling diplomatic, economic and military resources along the
Western perimeter of the Pacific, to forestall the putative and also threateningly
real expansionism of China, along with at least one surrogate, North
Korea. That is why it was so important
that Obama force (and continue to pressure) North Korea to back down on its
threats to violate U.S. Pacific hegemony.
Playing right into Obama’s hands is the reality that the
United States is now on a trajectory toward freeing ourselves of all dependence
on Middle Eastern oil. That is one of
the reasons I wrote the essay, in these columns, “Backing Away From Israel.” On the other hand, for the foreseeable
future, CHINA will continue to rely on Middle East sources for its oil. In a strange way, by insisting that United
States continue to try to stabilize conditions in Western Asia, while our
geo-political interests have now shifted elsewhere, makes John McCain an
unintentional decoy for the Chinese.
John McCain should only live and be well. However, when the time comes, perhaps his
final epitaph might read: “Wherever he
went, including here, it was against his better judgment.” Or better yet, as one who knows, “there’s no
fool like an old fool.”
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate attorney in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.