As the Obama Administration lets on that it is planning US military action against Syria and our forces move in to position we do have to ask, is such a war necessary?
First and foremost, is there any vital US interest at state in Syria? To a certain extent, yes. Syria’s government has long been allied with Iran and has fostered the terrorist group Hezbollah. Destroying the Syrian regime, though, would only be useful if the potential successor regime would no longer be allied with Iran or any other US enemy and/or if such a regime would cease supporting terrorism…given the grab-bag collection of Islamists who make up the bulk of the Syrian opposition, it is almost certain that if they gain power they will continue to support terrorism and if not allied with Iran, would ally with some other enemy country, or countries. Indeed, a successor regime run by the Islamist opposition might even re-ignite Syria’s war with Israel (which has never officially ended).
Secondly, is there a moral demand that we act – some times a nation must go to war even without a vital, national interest at stake simply because there is a vital, moral issue at stake. Given the very nasty brutality of the Syrian regime, there is a moral case to be made for war. Though if we were to move on this, it would smack a bit of hypocrisy because the Syrian government isn’t doing anything it hasn’t been doing for decades, accompanied by a resounding silence on our part. Additionally, the Islamist opposition to the Syrian regime has been engaging in routine brutality of its own – especially, it appears, against Syria’s Christian minority. Given their nature, we can expect an Islamist regime to crack down even harder on Christians, and on any Muslims who don’t live up to the Islamist ideal. Morally, there is no problem with targeting the Syrian regime, but the result of knocking off the Syrian regime is almost certain to be a regime even more horrific.
Overall, the result of a successful military operation against the Syrian regime appears to be something worse than we have now. That Assad is a brute and his regime inhuman is beyond doubt, but given the nature of the opposition, a successor regime would be at least as bad and, perhaps, more destabilizing to the overall region. A tenet of the Just War Doctrine is that the war must not cause a worse situation than currently exists – given the strong arguments against a good result (ie, getting something better than we have now), an argument can be made that a war against Syria does not meet the Just War criteria.
I tend to come down on that side – in Syria, we can’t make a result better than the current state of affairs and our efforts will, indeed, very likely make a worse result. We should, therefor, stay out of Syria. Our goal in this mess should be, instead, to work against overall enemy forces – which include both the Syrian regime and those fighting it. Right now, with Syria wracked by civil war, proper American policy should be to leverage Syria completely out of Lebanon and by so doing also get Hezbollah out. We cannot fix the whole world, but we can take advantage of this situation to help fix a small part of it – Lebanon has been a stomping ground for Syrian imperialists and Islamist terrorists for decades. It has become a standing threat to Israel and the non-Islamist population of Lebanon suffers grave injustice from the Syrians and the terrorist groups. Getting Syria and the terrorists out of Lebanon won’t usher in global peace, but it will help out the Lebanese and the Israelis as well as strengthening the overall US position in the area. We should be doing what we can – directly and indirectly, to clear out Lebanon while sealing off, as far as possible, the Syrian civil war. Once a winner emerges, then steps can be taken depending upon the circumstances.