Patterson: U.S. involvement in Syrian conflict a lose-lose proposition - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Patterson: U.S. involvement in Syrian conflict a lose-lose proposition

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East Valley resident Tom Patterson ( is a retired physician and former state senator.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013 5:24 am

How could the Obama administration even considered for one minute arming the Syrian rebels?

Here are the teams in Syria. On Assad’s side — the Shiites — are Hezbollah, the Iranians, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The Sunni (rebel) side has Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Sunni jihadists from across the Middle East. What’s the point of joining either side?

Does President Obama really think if we get involved it will turn out better than our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is it possible that he is so is Islamophilic that he believes he can persuade jihadists to quit training their children to blow us up if we help them just one more time? Is he really gifted enough to end centuries of tribal intra-Islamic strife? What?

It’s ironic that in domestic matters, Obama has been pretty much the far-leftist that many of us expected. From tax-and-spend to Obamacare to the regulatory avalanche and pushing abortion, he has toed the line for his hard-core base. Yet even many of them are aghast that the old community organizer would let us get dragged into a quagmire like Syria.

As Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times points out “those who are urging the US to get more deeply involved in a Syrian conflict are now living in the past.” From the end of World War II until the Iraq invasion, the U.S. was a dominant force in middle eastern politics. Our presence made sense because we had the money to do it and we got stable access to the region’s vital oil supplies. When Islamist jihadism began its resurgence, we were able to monitor it and partially limit its power.

But those days are gone, probably forever. As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars demonstrated, our ability to positively influence events in the Middle East is extremely limited.

In spite of the ballyhooed success of the Surge that preceded our withdrawal from Iraq, that country has pretty much gone to ground since we left. Sectarian violence levels are approaching those experienced in 2006-2007, with 1000 civilians killed in May of this year alone. Political and economic conditions are depressingly similar to those we went in to relieve.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, since Obama foolishly announced our withdrawal timetable, our enemies are naturally just running out the clock until the time comes when they can reassert control. We’re negotiating with the same crowd over our withdrawal that we sent an army to get rid of.

Meanwhile, Syria is the most recent and bloody of the “Arab Spring” uprisings. Yes, dictators have fallen, but not to freedom loving democrats. These are religious wars in the minds of the participants.

While we might be alarmed by the rise of Islamism and Sunni-Shiite sectarianism, there is ultimately little we can do to suppress them. Our efforts to help have not only been colossal failures (including Reagan’s intervention in the Lebanese civil war) but they are fiercely resented by the intended beneficiaries. No matter how many hospitals and bridges we build, terrorist still claim that our “imperialism” is the instigation for their attacks.

But there’s a silver lining. Science and luck have conspired to make it perfectly feasible for us to become energy independent.

In fact, we have options. Advances in nuclear power generation have essentially solved the problem of nuclear waste disposal, now treated like a recyclable by the Russians, for example. New fuels obviate the threat of uranium shortage, as many developed countries are discovering.

Vast new petroleum stores have been discovered underground along with new technologies for their recovery. We lack only the political will to claim them. Even the price of solar is declining to the point that it may soon be economically competitive. There is no reason we should ever again kowtow to an Arab sheik or distort our foreign-policy to obtain energy.

I’m with Sarah Palin on this one. When both sides are screaming “Allahu Akbar” as they slaughter each other over ancient grudges, let Allah sort it out.

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