Hindsight is said to be 20/20, but the cliché is not as accurate as one might think. The past can be almost as murky as the future; it all depends on who tells the story. In the case of the current situation in Syria, the past is being intentionally blurred to save face and protect President Obama’s legacy.
Another pertinent cliché is that history is written by the victors. Again, this isn’t always the case and Syria once again breaks the paradigm. The recent history is being rewritten by the losers. In this case, the losers refurbishing recent history are the same ones blurring the past. Unfortunately, the real loss from these actions are being felt by at least three million people in the Middle East though it’s probably a great deal more than that.
Russia is doing exactly what we predicted they would do. They’re defending Bashar al-Assad’s position against both types of uprisings: the populists and the savages. The populists are the groups that most coalition nations are calling the “moderate” rebels while the savages are the Islamic State and their supporters around the globe.
Western media is echoing American talking points that Russia is out of line for using their military might against the “moderate” forces that oppose Assad rather than the Islamic State threat to the east. They are using very harsh words to try to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from attacking the forces that the coalition has supported. It’s accelerating much more quickly than most anticipated with some areas friendly to the rebels demanding anti-aircraft missiles or a diplomatic solution to keep Putin from achieving his goals.
Good luck with that. it’s not going to happen. The saddest part is that three things could have been easily avoided: Russian engagement in the area, tens of thousands of people killed throughout the bloody civil war, and millions of displaced people flooding into Europe and other geopolitical. All President Obama had to do was fulfill his promise of getting directly involved once his “calculus was changed” by Assad’s usage of chemical and possibly biological weapons.
He did not fulfill that promise. Had he done so, things would be completely different. Here are three reasons why…
Assad Would Be Gone
Invading Baghdad turned out to be relatively easy. Building a working country from the rubble was the hard part and we failed miserably at it. Perhaps the lessons have been learned and we could have done it more easily if we would have acted on the threat that President Obama made. Unfortunately, the Nobel Peace Prize winner had a reputation that he’d failed to live up to at that point, so he backed down.
The Refugee Crisis would be Much Smaller
It isn’t just the rise of the Islamic State in the region that has forced people to flee Syria and other places in the Middle East. The destruction and chaos that has been allowed to continue for the last four years would have been reduced dramatically and most would have chosen to rebuild in peace. Instead, we’ve left them no choice but to abandon ship since the fighting has continued without ceasing. Assad had to stop using chemical weapons, but that didn’t stop conflict, death, or destruction. It simply allowed conflict, death, and destruction to continue in a more civilized manner through traditional life-shattering means rather than the unacceptable life-shattering means. We allowed them to continue the conflict in a way that better suited our western sensibilities. The result: millions of people trying to find new homes in the wake of Obama’s inaction.
The Islamic State would be… Different
There is no way to predict the actions of a chaos-driven entity like the Islamic State. It’s possible that they wouldn’t have pushed as deeply into Syria as they have. It’s also possible that they would have doubled down on their efforts and pushed towards Damascus while it was rebuilding once Assad was removed from power. Either way, the coalition presence around Damascus would have been better positioned to address ISIS. Instead, we’re relying on Russia to take action, a course that will halt ISIS in Syria but that will do nothing to prevent their expansion in other areas. Russia can push them back to Iraq, but from there they’ll enjoy the same free rein that already possess.
Normally, it’s not difficult to make a call after the fact, particularly when the results of the actual decision are so clearly bad. In this case, we’re seeing the blame pointed everywhere other than the point when all of this could have been avoided.