Sending guns instead of armies to support a cause has a lengthy and storied history in America, especially when American politicians have perceived that public support might not exist for actual American lives being spent on a cause that Americans nonetheless marginally support. Other Western nations have also used this to great effect over the years as well. Why bear the political cost of getting your own troops killed when there are already people with skin in the game who will be happy to take your guns and bullets and do your killing for you? And so it is no surprise to find the current crop of American politicians both Republican and Democrat falling all over themselves to arm some allegedly moderate rebels in Syria as a means of containing the threat of ISIS. In this particular area of the world, this move might be penny wise (I’m not even sure about that), but it is no doubt pound foolish.
For part of four decades now, America has been dropping weaponry in varying amounts and degrees into this region of the world, either in the service of countering Soviet expansion or furthering some other alleged American interest or – more recently under President Obama – furthering alleged humanitarian ends by giving people more efficient ways to kill each other.
In other words, we have quite a bit of experience from which any reasonable person would draw the conclusion that every time we drop weapons in to this part of the world, they eventually get turned on us. There is absolutely no group there that can be trusted to not eventually turn on American interests over time. Place kicker Charlie Brown wonders when America is going to wise up to this point and stop providing her current or future enemies with stuff they could never acquire on their own. I see no one anywhere in Syria or anywhere else that I would trust indefinitely to stay loyal to American interests. And even if there were such an entity, we would have to face the possibility (or probability) that eventually they would be overthrown or conquered by extremists and then our weapons would end up in anti-American hands anyway.
And that’s especially relevant because these people beat us, culturally, in devotion to their cause and in the willingness of their young men and women to take up arms and fight. The only advantage we have over them is that we have superior equipment and training. Providing anyone in this region with those two things turns them from a regional nuisance to a legitimate threat to America.
Maybe I am too jaded and viewing this with too much simplicity but I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to the Middle East, if we can’t bring ourselves to put our troops on the ground to use the weaponry in question, we should not be sending it over there at all. It is long past time in my view to recognize that the nature of the threat we face is likely to require generational containment until these countries catch up to the point where they can develop and generate these weapons themselves, by which time presumably the Enlightenment will have finally taken hold and hopefully they will understand the futility of their struggle.
Until then, let’s not continue to give them the bullets they’ll use to shoot us.