America Should Stop Trying To Fix Other Countries
By DOUG BANDOW
Posted 06:18 PM ET
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KILIS, Turkey — Syria's civil war has now washed over this country's border, flooding it with hundreds of thousands of refugees. Washington's efforts to solve the crisis so far have yielded few positive results.
George W. Bush's grandest foreign policy "success," the ouster of Saddam Hussein, is turning into an even more dramatic debacle. Egypt is racing back into Mubarak-style authoritarianism. The outcome of President Obama's "splendid little war" in Libya continues to unravel.
The region is aflame, and U.S. policy bears much of the blame. Washington's relentless attempt to reorder and reshape complex peoples, distant places and volatile disputes has backfired.
The blame isn't only Obama's. However ineffective his policies, they largely follow those of his predecessors. Moreover, his most vocal critics were most wrong in the past. Particularly the neocons, who crafted the Iraq disaster. Their claim that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq would have stopped its implosion ignores both history and experience.
Rather than acknowledge their own responsibility for Iraq's implosion, the neocons prefer to blame Obama, who merely followed the withdrawal schedule established by Bush. He failed to win Baghdad's agreement for a continuing U.S. presence before leaving office.
Exactly how Obama could have forced Iraq to accept a permanent U.S. garrison never has been explained.
Less clear is how U.S. troops could have built a democratic, stable Iraq. Attempts to impose U.S. wishes would have failed as the Maliki government put its own interests first. Using our forces to fight Baghdad's battles would have been far worse.
Intervening today would be a cure worse than the disease. Air strikes no less than ground forces would simultaneously entangle the U.S. and increase its stakes in another likely lengthy conflict. Moreover, killing more foreigners in another people's conflict would make more enemies of America, threatening more terrorist blowback.
In Iraq the Sunni radicals are unlikely to conquer the Shia-majority country. Their success already has mobilized Shiites, and predominantly Shia Iran will ensure Baghdad's control over at least majority Shiite areas. Ultimately de facto partition may be the most practical solution.
Further American intervention in Syria would be no less foolish. America has no reason to fight over who rules Damascus.
The civil war is destabilizing the region, but U.S. involvement would not impose order. Boots on the ground is inconceivable. Tepid action — no-fly zones and increased arms shipments — would be more likely to prolong the conflict than deliver a decisive result.
Moreover, Assad's ouster likely would trigger a second round of killing directed against regime supporters, such as Alawites and other religious minorities. With multiple parties engaged in the killing, there is no humanitarian option.