With the announcement Thursday that the U.S. will send weapons to rebel forces in the Syrian civil war, President Barack Obama’s hypocrisy on war is now complete.
When he directed U.S. forces to join the fight against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, President Obama had no authorization from Congress. But he had the support of the UN Security Council, which George W. Bush–as the left constantly noted–did not in Iraq.
However, in Syria, President Obama has no formal UN support at all. Though the decrepit UN Human Rights Council has condemned the Syrian government, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has criticized all external powers supplying weapons to the conflict.
The UN General Assembly has only backed a political solution, and with Russia, which backs the regime, in the Security Council there is no chance for action there.
None of this is to say that the United Nations should be the judge of whether, when and how the United States uses military force or provides military assistance.
Yet that is the standard that Obama and the anti-war left set when opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In praising the war effort in Libya, President Obama has proudly contrasted it to the Iraq War, noting that in Libya the UN guided “the collective will to act.”
The same is certainly true of assistance to the Syrian rebels, which–aside from a desire to end the regime’s atrocities, which also applied to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq–has no clear strategic objective. In fact, entering late, on what is apparently the losing side, poses great strategic problems.
In 2002, Sen. Obama also opposed the Iraq War on the grounds that it “will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”
In this case President Obama is not only fanning the flames of sectarian conflict in the Middle East–joining a Sunni “jihad”–but is now arming rebel forces dominated by Al Qaeda terrorists.
That is, emphatically, the wrong intervention, and will invariably result in blowback as U.S. weapons are turned against Syrian civilians and American allies who stand in the way of Al Qaeda’s ambitions in Syria and the region.
If there was a time to supply arms to the forces fighting the Assad regime–and, arguably, there was, before Al Qaeda took over the resistance–that date has long since passed. Now, weapons may do more harm than good.
One intervention which could force both sides to the negotiating table without arming Al Qaeda and fueling the war is the establishment of a no-fly zone over the country, which would also help stop the Syrian military from using chemical and biological weapons.
Again, however, President Obama’s delays have proved costly, as Russia has committed anti-aircraft defenses to the regime that could make a no-fly zone harder to maintain.
Iran is all-in for the Assad regime, providing weapons, military advisers, and its Lebanese Hezbollah army to the cause. That is why intervention in Syria ought to be part of a broader regional strategy to bring down the Iranian regime.
But sending rifles and anti-tank guns to guerillas and thugs is not a tactic equal to the Iranian challenge, and may in fact embolden Tehran.
If so, Obama’s hypocrisy could have very dangerous consequences.