Could Syria Spark WWIII?

By Alan Caruba.

Who recalls that one of the reasons Americans approved the invasions of Iraq was the fact that Saddam Hussein had used poison gas to kill Kurds?

Now we are told that Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s strongman, has used poison gas to defeat the rebels trying to overthrow him, but the attack killed civilians and came in the wake of news that Assad has been steadily gaining ground over the rebels.

The war has seen the slaughter of an estimated 100,000 Syrians. Why use poison gas at this point?

The U.S. was drawn into the Vietnam War with the false assertion that forces of the north had fired on U.S. naval ships, but it later came out that the attack was minor and hardly constituted a reason to make the huge commitment that led to the long war; one that it lost. Lyndon B. Johnson got the nation into that war with what is widely acknowledged to have been, at best, an exaggeration of the incident.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, while America was still engaged in Afghanistan, was yet another ill-fated decision. Indeed, it can be argued that after driving al Qaeda out of Afghanistan following 9/11 there was no reason for American military to remain. The U.S. began to depart Iraq in 2011 and it has returned to chaos as the Sunni-Shiite conflict grinds on.

Was the poison attack a “false flag” incident intended to draw the U.S. into yet another Middle East war?

Is there any reason to believe that U.S. military involvement in Syria would have a better outcome than Iraq or Afghanistan?

Naturally, though, observers will speculate who might have initiated the attack, but most certainly one can rule out Russia and Iran, allies of Assad. The Israelis have no reason to want to see an expanded war in Syria. Israel has had a de facto peace with the Assad father and son dictators since the 1967 war.

Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, would surely want to see a quick end to the Syrian civil war because all are trying to deal with a humanitarian disaster involving over a million refugees that have fled the conflict, but there is little reason to attribute a false flag operation to them.

Would the rebels—an assortment of Syrian freedom fighters augmented by al Qaeda groups—use poison gas to draw the U.S. and the West into the conflict? The answer to that is yes.

The most striking attribute of the Obama administration has been its failure to make any good judgments about the Middle East other than to get out or “lead from behind.” Much of this is attributable to the foreign policy advisors he has gathered around him; high level appointees of his national security council and in the CIA have a very Islam-friendly attitude that led them to believe that the U.S. could encourage democracy in a region that has no democratic history to build upon. His latest appointment, the new United Nations ambassador is missing in action; no one seems to know where she is.

The fact is that U.S. presidents have been making bad judgments when it comes to war since LBJ. Clearly, the decisions by Bush41 and Bush43 have not been met with success and, just as clearly, Americans do not want to see our military committed to another conflict in the Middle East.

Obama’s decision to support the ouster of Mubarak, the former Egyptian dictator, led to a short term in office by a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood that, in turn, led to massive demonstrations against him and his removal by the Egyptian military. By then the nation was suffering an economic breakdown with hundreds of thousands facing starvation. Only humanitarian support from Saudi Arabia has prevented this. The U.S. continues to dither over aid to the Egyptian military that has been a reliable ally for decades.

Even Turkey that has had a secular government elected an Islamist who has become unhinged by events. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan went from being Obama’s touted friend and partner to an offensive anti-Semite claiming Israel was behind Syria’s civil war. Obama has consistently misjudged who to support in the region.

As this is being written, American navel assets are being moved closer to Syria and American military have set up a command post in Jordan in the event an intervention is deemed necessary.

Writing in The Washington Times, Judson Phillips says, “This is Obama’s perfect war. It is perfect because there are no American interests involved, no reason for America to be involved, and no matter who wins the Syrian civil war, America loses.”

Most certainly, whether he decides to get in or stay out, it would come at a time when the Obama administration has forfeited any claim to leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. At this point, that is likely to be seen as Obama’s greatest legacy.

A century ago in 1913, neither Europeans, nor Americans could have imagined that World War I would begin the following year. The situation in Syria reeks of the same uncertainties and outcome.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

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