« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - The American Revolution, and Syria

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Suppose the history of the American Revolution was a little different.

We could not have won the war without the French. The continentals had no navy. Without a French blockade along the eastern seaboard, the British would bring in as many men and supplies as needed.

Suppose, hypothetically, the French hesitated. Instead of setting sail, what if they issued a strong warning to the redcoats and the British crown? Don’t brutalize your own colonists. No massacres. No mass hangings. We’ll stay out of it as long as it’s a conventional war, not savage reprisals.

George Washington would not have had a path to victory under such circumstances.

He’d have to find a way to get France to assist us. Anything else would mean the slaughter of his army and a traitors death for himself.

If he could, would Washington have manufactured a massacre to draw the French into the fighting? If he could, would he fabricate stories of mass hangings and brutality with hopes that they’d enflame passions in Paris and Versailles?

Or, to put this into today’s context, if the Americans had chemical weapons back then, would we use them on our own soil to get a third party to fight on our behalf? What if it was the only way? A desperate choice when the only other possibility was defeat?

These are the questions we should be asking before launching against Syria. Who benefits from the use of chemical weapons there? Certainly not Bashar al-Assad. He only makes himself an international pariah, and makes it more difficult for his Russian allies to stand with him. The rebels do benefit, and are ruthless enough to poison their own for a larger goal. But there are doubts if they have the actual gas to do it. Perhaps renegade troops are responsible; command-and-control on both sides is breaking down. But do we really want to give small cadres of soldiers and their leaders the power to drag the United States of America into war? The whodunit part of the story may never be known. Are we satisfied launching missiles under such circumstances?

We have no vital national interests in Syria. We’d be acting only on moral grounds. Is this any different than Libya when Mulmar Ghadaffi was massing troops to massacre his own people? Let’s pause for a moment to remember how that turned out. Rebel forces are not friendly; they are infiltrated with anti-American terrorists. Less than a year later, the people we saved surrounded our consulate in Benghazi, torched the place, killed our ambassador, and dragged his body through the streets.

Syria is no different. This is a civil war. Both sides hate us. We are right to express moral outrage at the horrors chemical weapons. But are we so morally superior to think that the Arab League would be any less outraged? If they withdraw their support, the House of Assad would fall. This is their part of the world; their backyard. We have no dog in this fight. We’d be smart to stay out of it. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be smart about it.

Chris Conley
8.27.13