Old war horses like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blasted President Obama for not arming rebel forces trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It appears had he done so ISIS would have ultimately received American arms and would have become more of a threat than it is today. Our history in Afghanistan with arming the Mujahedeen against the Soviet Union should have taught us the dangers of placing Americans bullets in the hands of rebels. Lest we forget, Osama bin Laden arose to infamy waving U.S. weapons.
Since the civil war began in Syria, the battlefield has seen a host of rebels flying an assortment of banners. All had the same objective of overthrowing the al-Assad regime, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for more than forty years. But like the Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein, President Assad has been a tolerated despot, who like his father had little patience with Islamists espousing dreams of a Pan-Islamic state governed by the strictures of medieval Sharia Law.
In 2002, most likely in the security of the underground bunker below the White House, then President George W. Bush sat around the war table to discuss the pros and cons of invading a country that had nothing to do with the catastrophe of 9/11. Secretary Colin Powell, no stranger to the realities of war, remonstrated to his neo-con colleagues using the “Pottery Barn Rule”: “If you break it, you buy it.” In other words, the destruction of a nation automatically sentenced the victor to years of wiping up the blood they spilled. In the case of Iraq, there appears to be not enough of anything including blood to infuse a country that had its heart ripped to shreds.
Coming weeks will prove President Obama’s “think before you shoot” policy correct or the strategy of one who dithers while the world burns. One thing is certain: his detractors will continue to disagree with him as they do nothing.