Who Will Be the Winners?
Who Will Be the Losers?
In merely 4 1/2 years, the status and toll of this conflict varies by source but the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) estimates that 11.5%, of the Syrian population has been killed or wounded. They estimate that 470,000 men, women and children have been killed since 2011 while the United Nation estimates this number to be 250,000, but the UN stopped estimating casualties 18 months ago. 11 million of the 18 million Syrians have lost their homes. The number of wounded has been estimated at 1,900,000. Destruction to Syria itself is estimated to be over quarter of a Trillion dollars. Regardless of the actual numbers, this conflict has been catastrophic to Syria and its people.
Who Are the Good Guys?
Or, are there any good guys in this conflict? Go back to 2011 when the “Arab Spring” sprung and was blessed by the Obama regime. Inside of Syria, “pro-democracy” dissident groups began fighting back against the Assad Syrian Government and this soon erupted into a nation-wide conflict as Assad cracked down on the dissidents. To this day I doubt anyone truly knows who or what the dissidents are.
To understand the Syrian conflict, you need to understand that Assad and the government are Alawite Shia Muslims and the dissidents are primarily Sunni Muslims. Further, Assad has been tightly aligned with Iran with both being supported by Russia! So, you have the Assad Syrian Government, Iran (via Hezbollah), and Russia on one side, with the primarily Sunni dissidents on the other.
But, with Obama’s and Clinton’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, a vacuum was created that was filled by the newly formed Sunni Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS and Iran both want to dominate and control the rich resources of Syria and Iraq. So, ISIS secured large regions of Syria from the Assad Government and set up the capital of their “Caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria! So, now you have ISIS and the dissidents fighting against Assad, Iran, and Russia! But, ISIS and the dissidents are not aligned and ISIS forces or kills dissidents who do not swear allegiance to their caliphate. To make it even more complicated, the Kurds occupy much of northern Syria and Southern Turkey and they don’t like anyone particularly! The map below shows how Syria has been carved up by each group.
The bottom line is that there may not be any “good guys” in this conflict, just a bunch of guys fighting for their own self interests!
Where Does the US Fit In?
Depends! From Obama’s perspective, the US has two goals. First goal, don’t cross the Iranians. Two, act like you are fighting ISIS. The first goal became evident when Obama penciled in his Red Line regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Obama/Clinton were told in no uncertain terms that the Iranian nuclear talks were over if Obama intervened in Syria against Assad. So, Obama/Clinton took out their Red Line Eraser and we bowed again to the Ayatollahs in Iran. The second goal included arming the dissidents to a low-level so the dissidents could fight ISIS on the ground. Of course the dissidents took shots at Assad’s army as they were actually the primary dissident target and both the dissidents were Sunni. Some believe that the CIA annex in Benghazi was a front for moving arms from Libya to the Syrian dissidents. Obama/Clinton mixed using the dissidents and air strikes against ISIS to show the American public that he was fighting against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.
From the Neo-Con perspective, the US needs to intervene on behalf of the dissidents as all freedom fighters who want democracy are good and deserve our help to whatever degree possible, including armed intervention! You heard Senators McCain and Graham on talk shows the past 4.5 years demanding that we back the dissidents. McCain even met with some of them in Syria. The Neo-Cons would have the US engage directly in the Syrian conflict with the dual goals of removing Assad from power and killing off ISIS. Whoa! Assad is backed by Iran and Russia and to a lesser degree, China. What the Neo-Cons are advocating are at least a 4 power war over Syria! The Assad regimes have ruled Syria since 1971, why now?
From a US Self-Interest perspective today, the horse is out of the barn; the train left the station; and any other cliché you want to use to describe a situation in Syria that is only a Lose-Lose for the US. Obama’s and Clinton’s lack of action early on removed all US options in this country, if we ever had any, other than all out war with Russia, Iran and Syria. The fact is that since Obama/Clinton abandoned Iraq with his rapid pullout, Iraq will most likely align with Iran. The majority in both countries are Shia and Iran has coveted Iraq in order to create a three state power consisting of Syria, Iraq and Iran. They will then look towards Lebanon, Jordon and Israel for additional conquests.
In Syria, we have put up with an Assad regime in power, aligned with Russia and Iran, for over 45 years. It makes no sense from a national self-interest to engage the Assad regime in Syria. We do have a national self-interest in annihilating ISIS and that interest is shared by Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq.
Trump Is Right in Syria:
You may not like Donald Trump but he is dead right on Syria. We have a national self-interest in removing ISIS from Iraq and Syria but no self interest in removing Assad from power. The shame of it all is that we lost countless lives, many of our soldiers were gravely wounded in the war in Iraq, and we spent trillions of dollars for naught. Iraq also suffered casualties ranging upwards of 250,000 including both military and civilians. To walk away is a shame on both the Bush and Obama/Clinton administrations. Bush should not have left the status of forces agreement up to Obama/Clinton and Obama/Clinton should not have walked away from Iraq without a solid SFA with Iraq. But, we did and we need to cut our loses and get out after taking our ISIS.
History repeats itself if we do not learn from our mistakes. We failed politically, not militarily, in Vietnam and in Iraq. We may have to add Afghanistan if we keep up our current politically correct engagement. We need to learn to lead from strength, engage when our national-interests are jeopardized, and walk away when it is not our fight. There will always be bad guys and we will always have to stand strong against them. But, to pick fights when we are not threatened or do not have the will to win politically, like Iraq and Vietnam, it will always end in failure.
If you get a chance, read or peruse Sun Tzu’s the Art of War, written 500 years BC. It is still a good “rule book” for fighting a war today. (http://suntzusaid.com/)