What is happening in Syria is an awful thing to behold. And we can act to end it. And we shouldn’t.
By refusing to commit U.S. airpower to helping the Syrian rebels, President Obama is making judicious use of the most important resource the world has – the U.S. military.
We can’t fight every battle. We can’t overextend ourselves.
We have to be ready to attack Iran’s nuclear program at any moment, when our intel services suddenly realize, for example, that the Mullahs are much further along than we think.
We have to act to counter Chinese influence in Asia, protect South Korea and Taiwan, and make sure the Russians know not to press the reset button on expansionism.
We have to keep the world’s sea lanes open, and be ready to intervene in Latin America, where our troops are periodically called upon to act.
And we have no money. We’ve spent it all. We’re drunks, and the bar tab is coming due.
We can’t just fling our bombs around and commit ourselves to engagements in which the call to become gradually more deeply involved would begin to blare the moment we dispatched the first F-16s.
Syria is backed by Iran and Russia. It has proxy war written all over it. The Iranians would massively resupply the Syrian regime. Once we’ve begun a military action, we cannot fail. If the bombs didn’t dislodge Bashar Assad, we’d have to put troops on the ground. And then we’re in it deep.
It would be good, both morally and strategically, to rid Damascus of the Assad clan. But we have more urgent matters to deal with.
The people we would help are disunited and often militarily inept. And we’ve learned that too often, little that is good replaces these regimes once they topple.
I backed intervening in Libya – before Obama did – because I believed with relatively little effort we could destroy someone who had supported terrorism and killed Americans. And I was right, though the failure to act when Muammar Qaddafi was initially on the ropes resulted in a longer and more deadly campaign.
I despair for the Syrian people and grieve for their suffering. I think we should consider at least arming the rebels, on the bet that Assad is so bad that whatever replaces him can’t be much worse.
But Obama is right, and John McCain, who wants to unleash the Air Force, is wrong. We can’t be Rome and fight the Barbarians on every front. We have to pick our battles. And not this one.