It certainly hasn't been that long since an end to U.S. combat activities in Iraq were announced by President Barack Obama, and it has been even less time since Obama has announced that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country two years ago. Now, U.S. officials have announced their intent to use military action in Syria sometime this week.
It's odd how comparable this announced attack is to the start of combat operations in Iraq back in 2003. There is the same cited reason for military action in the illegal use of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has set aim at the same target: a Middle Eastern dictator that's become unpopular with the people. A nd just like in 2003, action is being called before the United Nations has has a chance to investigate the situation.
These similarities are very perplexing for those of us that remember and supported President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and how he called the Iraq invasion and subsequent war "a dumb war." Since his 2011 announcement, when he changed his anti-war stance and explained how Iraq made America "special," it seems that the president is becoming ever more like his predecessor. However, unlike his predecessor, Obama seems to be receiving less public support for an attack in Syria, then there was for an Iraq invasion in 2003. Even nations like Poland — which supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 — have declared that they won't support this attack.
Even with that in mind, it wouldn't be a complete comparison without looking at how the United States is once again ignoring the United Nations. While Secretary of State John Kerry claims that the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons is "undeniable," the U.S. chose to ignore the chemical weapons that UN investigators concluded the Syrian rebels had been using. The decision for military action against Assad has already been made. This strongly echos the events that lead up to the Iraq War.
Given how the attacks on Syria are oh so similar to the conflict in Iraq, it's justifiable to assume that the end results will be similar. Looking at the aftermath of the Iraq War and U.S. withdrawal, the region has been left unstable and in turmoil (it's worse now as Syrian rebels smuggle weapons through Iraq), and civilian casualties were very high. Indeed, looking at how even "precise" drone strikes are estimated to kill 50 civilians for every single target killed, it really makes one wonder if this military action will benefit Syria's civilian population.
Finally, a Syria "coalition of the willing" among the U.S. and allied European nations contradicts the very global political fabric the U.S. has worked for decades to weave, specifically international organizations like the United Nations, as well as various treaties andglobal norms. In 2003, the "coalition of the willing" was a giant middle finger to the United Nations when the Security Council would not agree to invade. Strategies that avoid the UN system defy the entire purpose of the organization. Now, as it is almost completely certain another coalition will form, it seems as if the United Nations and its authority will be continued to be undermined as the United States and its allies continue to act in their interests.
And of course, Syrians will be the ones to pay the price.