The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I must give Anne-Marie Slaughter credit, she is unwavering in her support for international intervention wherever the opportunity to do so arises throughout the greater North African/Middle East area but just as her opinion article suggests that some of the risks to the U.S. from its current policy toward Syria are laughable, she seems to place a lot of stock into the assertion that Syrian memories are long.
The article states, “When we control Syria, we won’t forget that you forgot about us” attributing that to the sister of a dead Free Syrian Army soldier, the Princeton Professor using the quote to suggest that it is representative of the metaphorical threat that the U.S. and Europe will face after the rebel factions seize control of the country as if that outcome is already a foregone conclusion.
It is interesting that the risks she lists are seemingly laughed off while less plausible and historically unproven outcomes are deemed almost inevitable. Slaughter sounds the alarms about internal sectarian violence further destabilizing the greater Middle Eastern region without intervention which has not yet been realized in any recent uprising yet she very nearly discounts the obvious threats of arming the opposition and the long term consequences of short term desires.
The “Arab Spring” has spread throughout the region not by violence or instability spilling over borders, but by individual groups taking the initiative they see being taken in other countries by people in similar situations. Ironically, the only recent case of violent spillover comes by way of Mali, where the flow of unchecked western arms from intervention in Libya are alleged to have helped embolden the Islamist rebels in the north known now as Azawad into launching an offensive that saw them capture large swathes of the country.
Anne-Marie Slaughter promulgates the much bandied threats of this spillover of war into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and even Jordan. Played even is the dreaded “chemical weapons” card to force the hands of those perceived by her as missing the chance to be on the right side of history.
Do we so soon forget about the lessons of Iraq? The lessons learned only through the deaths of thousands and the unaccounted for expenditure of hundreds of billions for no discernible gain and no discernible benefit? Admittedly, the situations are not equivalent but many of the reasons for action are. Do we so readily ignore the similar threats of violent spillover, chemical weapons, and regional instability as a world threat that never materialized made in 2002 and 2003 to justify invasion into Iraq? Do we so easy fear the empty threats of rag tag, fractious rebel groups, scorned by the ravages of a war started without the means or long term planning to ensure victory?
The assertion that intervention in Syria would be a bold and smart move by President Obama is unsettling. That this type of assertion emanates from such an intelligent, informed, and engaged person of considerable influence is downright disheartening. We have seen the long term consequences of short term policies. We have been mired in a decade of war in Afghanistan because of a failure to plan for the long term. We spent nearly that long in Iraq, bleeding lives, bleeding reserves, and bleeding economies because of a failure to create long term plans.
As long as the U.S. continues to ignore outcomes and consequences, refuses to learn the lessons of recent history, and fails to properly plan for the operations which it undertakes, we should not be surprised when things do not turn out as expected or these political adventures fail to produce any tangible benefit or reward bettering the resources or efforts required.
What is a threat to the U.S. and its interests is not an Assad run Syria it is an unstable Syria poorly run by disparate groups with misaligned goals, misaligned beliefs, and misaligned priorities. Freedom and democracy are attainable by those ready to fight for it, but only sustainable by those ready to unite for it.
The various interests that comprise what we so neatly refer to as the Syrian opposition have but one goal in common, the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. That is a lofty goal and one that Assad and his forces will clearly do anything to prevent but what no one can articulate is what happens the day after? What happens when the sole focus of war and hatred is removed from power or like his counterpart in Libya, removed from power after being brutally sodomized with rebar and summarily executed on a dusty street in Damascus without charge or trial?
Will the rebel groups lay down their advanced, western heavy weapons, join hands, and proclaim to a generous U.S., “thanks for the memories” as they meticulously catalog, account for, and hand back caches of MANPADs donated by the well-meaning U.S. government?
Is the relative security of the U.S. any more or less stable for failing to intervene in Egypt when similar calls were made to do so or by deciding to get involved in Libya when equivalent threats of spreading regional instability were made? Can anyone produce metrics of increased stability as a direct result of U.S. involvement?
Let us not pretend that human lives factor in to any decisions that nations make on behalf of interests for if the world’s nations truly cared about humanity, we would take steps to alleviate the conditions and suffering that results in the starvation deaths of 15 people every minute around the world.
Syria faces a crisis, an internal crisis, that while seething, shows few signs of truly traversing its borders into neighboring regions just as the situation in Iraq, as exponentially worse as it was, did not infect or ignite destabilizing violence in its neighboring nations, even those shared with Syria.
U.S. involvement in Syria has few benefits, many, many costs, and may only serve to further destabilize a precarious situation. We must carefully weigh out the possible outcomes, good and bad, with a view to the long term ramifications of each to see if the price of an ousted Assad is worth the cost of U.S. provided heavy weapons possibly permeating throughout the region or the world for once those cats are let out of the bag, they cannot be returned.