On Monday, former Security of State Condoleezza Rice made a bold call for U.S. intervention in Syria on CBS News.
"There's no doubt it's time for the United States to make clear that it is going to engage in this effort to stop the difficult situation in Syria and to prevent its further spread," she stated in her new position as a paid contributor for CBS. "It's already spreading across the region."
Over two years ago, Syrians rose up in protest against President Bashar al-Assad. Today, as strife rages on, over 80,000 have died. Rice joins other interventionists that have recently gone to the public with a push for American action against Assad.
Rice is a veteran war advocate. In her post as a national security adviser during George W. Bush's first term, Rice was a critical component in making a public case for the invasion in Iraq.
In September of 2002, she famously told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
It has been just about a year and a half since the end of the Iraq war, when America heralded trumpets of an uncertain victory in a war waged to strip a nation of weapons of mass destruction it did not actually possess. Today, as Iraq is torn apart by sectarian violence, Islamist extremism, and poverty, interventionist words are met with uncertainty by many.
But Rice insists that the United States "doesn't have an option of no action."
Rice, McCain, and other pro-war advocates paint an unambiguous portrait of a simple war where good guys fight the bad and in which America has no choice but to intervene to insure that justice prevail.
Not only do the loud, unwavering voices of pro-war advocates draw eerie parallels to the invasion of Iraq, but Rice and her allies fail to consider, or even mention, the intricacies of a nuanced war in one of the most complex regions of the world. In reality, the Syrian rebels are a loosely-knit umbrella organization. Some of the group's factions have links to Al Qaeda. Prominent human rights organizations like Amnesty International have warned against arming the rebels since the group has increasingly resorted to torture, hostage taking, and other war crimes.
Aid supplied to rebels could end up in grips of anti-Western jihadis, as did American-approved weapons that Qatar supplied to Libyan rebels two years ago.
They fail to consider the crucial question; could intervention make an already-tangled conflict even more messy?
Assad's regime has close ties with both Iran and Russia, intervention in Syria could dampen — or even deaden — potential negotiations with Iran concerning its looming nuclear program. It could also further worsen already-tense diplomatic relations with Russia.
Furthermore, unilateral action seems to be the most plausible route since the United Nations and NATO both rejected intervention in Syria in March. Not to mention ... a recent Pew Survey found that 68% of Americans think the United States should not intervene in Syria, while only 24% believe that it should. This adversity to war runs across party lines, with a majority of Democrats (72%) and Republicans (64%) both agreeing that the United States should avoid foreign entanglement in Syria.
Statistics, historical evidence, and sentiment around the world all suggest that America does, in fact, have a choice. Counter to Rice's recent statement, there are options, and many of them, that should be considered carefully and thoroughly.
It is true that intervention strategies like a no-fly zone and selective airstrikes, as advocated by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would most likely help topple the Assad regime. But as the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the last half-century of American military engagement in the Arab world have taught us, in the long-run, we cannot predict the outcome and there is no way to insure that democracy and peace will prevail.
As Reason's Matthew Feeney concludes; "How exactly, will they separate the good rebels from the bad ones? How, exactly, will they keep the bad rebels from access stockpiles of Assad regime weaponry? What are the conditions of victory? If the rebels do route Assad, do we stick around and help them rebuild? If so, for how long? Lastly: Why should we?"