The lives lost in the Syrian civil war are tragic and stand as a reminder of how grim war can be on the civilian population and revolutionaries alike. The U.S. and international community have largely stood idle during this 21-month conflict, while providing limited support for the opposition.
So far, the U.S., some European governments, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have given some covert assistance to the opposition and granted political recognition of the loose coalition of factions constituting the Syrian opposition.
The supporters of the Syrian opposition now say that the U.S. should intervene using its military might to efficiently resolve this bloody civil war, especially when the risk of chemical warfare has reared its ugly head.
The boosters of U.S. military intervention also point out that the U.S. could help to quickly defeat the Assad regime and bring about a new political landscape for Syria to pave the path to democratic change in this Middle Eastern state.
These views don’t reflect reality or the facts on the ground. The U.S. has little to gain from military intervention in Syria given that we’ve waited too long, the risks and costs are too high, and we still haven’t settled our accounts from the Libya affair.
There are five big reasons for why the U.S. should not militarily intervene in Syria.
Reason #1: The Syrians blame the U.S. for the 40,000 deaths during their 21-month civil war.
The New York Times reported last week that “[m]uch of the [Syrian] rebellion is hostile toward America” and that “Syrians across the political spectrum say the United States allowed more than 40,000 people to die in the 21-month conflict.”
The Syrian opposition had hoped that the U.S. would militarily intervene – with some favoring Mitt Romney to win in November in hopes that he would do just that.
But now it seem the window may have closed. The lives have been lost and more will be lost. How can the U.S. hope to assuage the outcry of the Syrian people for sitting on the bench so long by intervening now?
Reason #2: Some of the Syrian opposition factions are made up of anti-U.S. militants affiliated with terrorist organizations.
The State Department labeled a number of the Syrian opposition groups as a part of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), including: al-Nusrah Front, Jabhet al-Nusrah, The Victory Front, and Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant. This has caused some anger among the Syrian Opposition as the U.S. covertly supports select groups in Syria.
A State Department spokesperson explained why the U.S. is cherrypicking opposition groups:
"We are certainly making the broader point…that there may be other groups who don’t have a democratic Syria in mind, who don’t have the best interest of the Syrian people in mind, and one needs to be aware of them. These kinds of al-Qaida-affiliated groups have a very, very different vision about how people ought to live, and certainly, there’s nothing democratic about it."
Given that there is an obvious risk of helping terrorist-affiliated groups in Syria, it behooves us not to intervene militarily and expose our brave men and women of the armed services to possible attack by such groups, which is heightened by perceived favoritism on the part of the U.S.
Reason #3: Military intervention will be too costly for the U.S., given the ongoing downsizing of the military and the strength of the Assad forces.
General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the current NATO Secretary, has told Foreign Policy magazine that the military intervention would be too costly and unpredictable given the complexity of the situation in Syria:
"Syria is ethnically, politically, religiously much more complicated than Libya. This is the reason why the right way forward is different. The guiding question should be: Would it bring a sustainable solution to the problem if we decided to intervene[?]"
The bottom line is that the U.S. and the West are downsizing their military in favor of smart defense and Syria represents a bunny hole that should not be risked. Rasmussen is right to point out that Syria is not Libya as the Assad regime has stronger forces and deeper ties to the Syrian populous than Qadaffi. Hence, military intervention seem unwise.
Reason #4: The Libya Intervention has taught us that military intervention has hidden costs.
When the U.S. and NATO intervened in Libya, in 2011, the Obama administration told us that we were going to intervene on behalf of the Libyan people, who were only trying to achieve a fair and democratic governmnt and could be saved by U.S. military intervention.
Over a year later, the Qadaffi regime is no more, but so are the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his State Departmet colleagues who perished in the terrorist attack on the Benghazi Consulate. The political and security situation remains tenuous in Libya.
Some would argue that the process of transformation is a work in progress that needs patience. They are right. We should focus on what we start rather than opening another can of worms that we can't vouch for in terms of unexpected costs to our country.
Reason #5: The majority of the American people are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
The Pew Research Center conducted two surveys this year asking: “Does the U.S. have a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria?” A resounding 63% said "No" in December and 64% said "No" back in March. They said as much when asked the same question about Libya.
With a large and overwhelming majority of Americans opposing military intervention, President Obama and his cabinet cannot and should not intervene, especially when we consider all the facts against military intervention laid out in this article.
With all of these notable reasons in mind, the U.S. should forget about escalating its direct involvement in Syria, especially military intervention, as the facts on the ground in Syria and the U.S. don't favor this course of action. The U.S. has nothing or very little to gain through military intervention now.