Yesterday, the Senate approved a bill to arm and train Syrian rebels, who fight against Bashar Assad, so they can eliminate ISIS, which possesses hundreds of millions of dollars, and no shortage of fighters willing to die for them. I fail to see the wisdom in this action, or what good can come of this. It appears cowardly, and even immoral to pay others to fight for you.
The New York Times penned almost 1,800 words describing and analyzing this vote, and even got the tally wrong in the original version.
Correction: September 18, 2014
An earlier version of this article misstated the vote tally because of incorrect information announced in the Senate. The vote was 78 to 22, not 73 to 22.
Even libertarian-leaning (read: isolationist) Rand Paul voted for this measure.
“I’m not sending your son, your daughter, over to the middle of that chaos,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, whose libertarian views have propelled him into contention for his party’s 2016 nomination. “The people who live there need to stand up and fight.”
President Obama made a five minute statement from the White House after the vote, in which he reiterated the false claim that his coalition has 40 countries, including Arab countries (yeah if you include every possible type of “aid” like humanitarian, or paying the families of suicide bombers, or if you believe that Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria). Obama did add that France will be joining in, and like clockwork, the French have started bombing ISIS (Obama stubbornly calls them ISIL). Merveilleux!
Obama also held to his “no combat boots on the ground” doctrine. So U.S. troops will be there to train, advise and equip whoever we select to fight ISIS. As for Syrian rebels, a week ago a number of senior leaders were blown up, either by Assad’s forces, or by ISIS. I’m sure we know a guy who knows a guy who can take us to the rebels we’re looking for. There’s nothing good that can ultimately come from providing American weapons and training to people we don’t know, who likely hate us and are working with us only because their own survival depends on it. It’s a devil’s bargain.
Let’s say you had a bully threatening to beat you to a pulp, and I had some brass knuckles to help you defend yourself, and I could show you how to use them, but first I wanted you to use those brass knuckles to beat up the guy dating my sister. You might do it. It’s immoral as hell for me to make such a bargain with you, and after you took care of my sister’s boyfriend, and whipped your bully, you’d probably come looking for me with a can of beat down. I’m pretty sure I’d deserve it. This is, in essence, the bargain we are making with Syrian rebels.
Not to mention the fact that it will likely drive Assad further into the loving arms of Vladimir Putin, who just can’t wait to provide more arms to Syria’s ruling regime in exchange for money and influence. Israel is not commenting, but they are surely feeling more squeezed, since Syrian rebels have a tendency to pass their weapons over to their Hezbollah friends. Israel watches closely, and sends a few F-16’s to intercept these weapons when it happens. I imagine they won’t be too thrilled to face American weapons, or the possibility of bombing Americans present during these transfers.
This bill that the House and the Senate passed just has “bad idea” written all over it. But in the “do something!” climate in Washington, with elections scarcely 50 days away, and Obama refusing to do anything except arming or convincing other people to fight ISIS on the ground, Congress caved.
Never to waste the opportunity to kick all the cans down the road past the election, Congress hid a bonus in the bill–an Easter egg: the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank through June 2015. They could have just let it die, but no, they snuck it in under the news cycle.
I can’t see our elected officials appearing any way but indecisive and cowardly to the rest of the world. We put on this strong show, and we certainly have the technology and weapons to defeat ISIS. But I think they see through that and realize there’s not much substance behind the airstrikes (though they may be effective). We may simply have become a paper tiger, later to be drawn fully into a conflict that will make Vietnam or Iraq look like Grenada.
Cowards make poor leaders, and paying someone else to take care of bullies is a devil’s bargain. Americans are made of better stuff than that.