(Article changed on June 2, 2013 at 09:41)
" The problem is that no matter how good your intentions, eventually you want to kill someone yourself."
Trick Question: What's the difference between Iraq today and Syria today?
Answer: They are only killing one another. And, frankly, that's the way it should be.
Oh, don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that folks killing one another over religious/political disputes is a good thing, it's not. But it's a helluva lot better than throwing our young men and women into the fight so they can get killed too.
It would be one thing if we had to get involved, as we did in Europe during World War II. That one was a very real existential threat to virtually everything good W estern civilization had created to date.
Not so in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, Syria. Armed intervention in those Middle Eastern countries is pure, unadulterated folly.
First of all, in each of those places, we lose no matter which side(s) win. The "leaders" we back, because they are the least of evils, are still guys you wouldn't trust to babysit your family pets, much less an entire country. I mean seriously , folks, how can you trust a guy (Karzi) who needs to be lubricated -- literally -- with weekly deliveries of bags of US dollars from our CIA? And whose brother is to Afghanistan what Al Capone was to Chicago!
Meanwhile in Iraq , Shiites are wasting no time getting even with Saddam Hussian's tribe, the Sunni, who ruled Iraq before we decided it was time for militarily forced change of "parties" there. The Shiites are in, and the Sunni are out. But, like most militarily forced "elections , " the losers are not amused and have decided to drop ballots in favor of bullets. We declared victory and left ... left the two sides to get back to the thousand-year religiously fueled extermination campaign against each other.
We in the West forget that, whether we are talking Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Lebanon we are really talking one thing: Shia v. Sunni. Quite simply it is the single most unreconcilable feud on the planet. Christian v. Jew, Jew v. Mu sl im, Buddhist v. Muslim, Mormon v. Christian, Atheist v. All the Above ... nothing comes close to the Shia/Sunni split. There has been blood and there will be blood... as long as members of either clan exist. (And if you think that's an exaggeration, you need to read Islamic history - - both versions.)
The mess in Syria will spread , no matter what the West does. Lebanon will be engulfed again in sectarian sniping , and Israel will strike back whenever bullets and bombs ricochet in their direction. It's going to be ugly and it's going to be ugly for a very long time to come.
So, what should the West do?
First, don't go all sentimental. War is an ugly business -- the ugliest. Civilians always take the brunt of matters during wars. But, had the A llies worried about that during WWII we'd all be talking German today. Once the sh*t starts flying in a war, you're either all in, or you get the hell out of the way. In 1940 the threat the West faced was truly and unambiguously real.
No so in the Middle East. No side is "the good side." No outcome will serve us for long, or well. All the players are either despots, religious nuts, sociopaths, psychopaths, crooks, murderers, drug dealers, or some combination.
So, what should the West do in Syria? As little as possible.