The Complex Syrian WarPosted: November 10, 2016
The Complex Syrian War
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
The struggle in Syria has lasted more than five years. Its cost, just to Syria alone, is 500,000 dead and four times that number uprooted from their homes. Many of the displaced have become refugees seeking asylum in Turkey, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. These refugees have become a serious problem where they have settled – especially in Germany.But what is this conflict in Syria all about? It started with the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. That uprising quickly spread throughout the Middle East wreaking its havoc in Egypt until a military coup overturned a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. It led to chaos in Libya and elsewhere enabling forces loyal to Al Qaeda to prevail. In Syria, the Arab Spring emboldened opponents of the government led by Bashar al-Assad. They took up arms and sought to oust him.
Soon, the Kurds who populate eastern Syria, northern Iraq, and a portion of southern Turkey had their own reasons for opposing Assad. Long seeking a country of their own, they sent forces against the Assad government with marginal success. Then, out of the spreading chaos, Muslim militants who opposed Assad formed ISIS and seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq. All of this was bad enough but the conflict worsened when Russia and Iran entered the fray on the side of Assad.
The rebels seeking to topple Assad began receiving arms and financial aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Sunni Muslims who dominate Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab world always opposed any moves by the numerically inferior Shiites who dominate Iran. Yet Assad and his government favor the Shiite rather than the Sunni type of Islam.
If you’ve decided this whole conflagration is impossible to figure out, or too confusing to understand, you’re not alone. If you wonder why the U.S. has become involved, you are in a league with millions of fellow Americans. But consider this: The United States supplies arms and air power on the side of the anti-Assad rebels and Russia favors the Assad regime by sending military supplies and engaging in some forms of military intervention. Could the chaos in Syria expand to a greater war outside of Syria? That possibility cannot be ignored.
Over the years while this ongoing conflict has continued, U.S. aid to anti-Assad rebels has ended up in the hands of ISIS. Some of the promised aid led to the attack in Benghazi where our nation’s ambassador and three other Americans perished. Other U.S. aid went to Kurdish forces whose loyalty to the U.S. is highly questionable.
One policy that few have voiced is that our nation ought to stay out of this mess and similar messes. But those who believe it is America’s duty to create an American-led empire – the neoconservatives in both major political parties – continue to advocate involvement in this costly and seemingly endless struggle. Isn’t it time for America to mind its own business?
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.