Neocons Push for Deeper Syrian Role

The neoconservatives who run the Washington Post continue to beat the drum for more U.S. war in the Middle East, now giving voice to influential neocon pundits demanding that the Obama administration begin lethal aid to Syrian rebels, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar notes.

By Paul R. Pillar

Invalid reasons for getting more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war continue to be heard. One of the latest is in a front-page article in the Washington Post, which declares that America “increasingly is being viewed with suspicion and resentment for its failure to offer little more than verbal encouragement to the revolutionaries.”

Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is cited in the article as arguing that unless the United States furnishes significant lethal aid to rebels, a virulently anti-American variety of Islamism could arise among disillusioned Syrians. If the United States maintains its current policy, “ultimately the political entity that comes to power is not going to be in U.S. interests,” says Tabler. “A secular and democratic Syria is what we’re going to lose big-time.”

Map of Syria

The Post‘s correspondent is no doubt reporting accurately some of the sentiments she is hearing from impatient rebels. And in a general sense, U.S. policies toward conflict-prone portions of the Middle East do significantly shape popular sentiments, and those sentiments do have significant implications for U.S. interests. But this is not just a matter of buying gratitude with lethal support.

The recent experiences of the United States with its most extensive efforts to intervene in (or to touch off) civil wars are instructive. The amount of U.S. aid and effort in them should have bought mountains of gratitude. One is the very long-running civil war in Afghanistan.

Although it is not true, as some legend has it, that the United States created Al Qaeda with its aid to the jihad against the Soviets, and although the Afghan Taliban was Pakistan’s child and not America’s, U.S. support and involvement in Afghanistan do underlie much of what bedevils that country and the United States today.

U.S. lethal support gave an important boost to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and it was even more important in developing into an effective fighting force the Haqqani group, which is now so much of an antagonist to the United States that it is the subject of Congressional resolutions urging the Secretary of State to designate it formally as a foreign terrorist organization. Some gratitude.

Then there was the war in Iraq, sold partly on the idea that the United States would be lovingly showered with gratitude from Iraqis welcoming Americans as liberators. The war did not, of course, turn out anything like that.

Even when events in Iraq have enjoyed an uptick or two, Iraqis have been slow to credit the United States for anything that has gone well and persistent in blaming the United States for much of what is still not going well.

Several things are happening to account for these results and can be expected to happen again if the United States were to immerse itself more deeply in the current conflict in Syria. One is that there never is much genuine gratitude in the first place.

There is at most a tactical “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach by belligerents willing to take aid from the devil if it will help them to win the next street battle. When circumstances change (as they will when Bashar Assad falls), the illusion of friendship is dispelled.

Even as long as a common enemy remains and circumstances are largely unchanged, the provision of assistance creates the expectation of still more assistance. Failure to fulfill growing expectations leads to growing resentment. Attitudes tend to be shaped by asking “what have you done for me lately?”

Aiding any one set of contestants in such a conflict opens one up to resentment and anger from other contestants, even when they ostensibly are allies of the aid recipients but even more so when alignments change as a civil war and associated political struggles move into new phases. It is good advice to try not to play favorites, but that would be exceedingly difficult to do in the complicated Syrian situation.

The most important dynamic is that if the United States gets involved at all in a bloody mess, it tends to be seen as responsible for all of the bloodshed and mess, even beyond what is reasonably attributable to its actions.

Even if the United States does not apply the Pottery Barn rule to itself, others do, and in an expansive and unfair way. This will be a major hazard with Syria, given the prospect of much bloodshed and mess there still to come.

The perceived power of the United States amplifies and sustains such sentiments, much more than the actual power of the United States enables it to shape and control circumstances for which it will be blamed. The United States will not lose a “secular and democratic Syria” no matter what it does, because such a thing is not America’s to lose in the first place.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

12 comments for “Neocons Push for Deeper Syrian Role

  1. August 13, 2012 at 15:13

    “begin lethal aid to Syrian rebels,”???
    Nice try to cheat us! This war in Syria has been planed by U.S. / NATO long before!
    This is an undercover proxy guerrilla war, U.S. Army-speak: “Unconventional Warfare”, which is conducted with sent-in jihadis, mercenaries and a few silly Muslim extremists who believed the AlJazeera’s lies and false-flag Actions used to create hatred against Assad.

    This U.S. war was planned long time ago and is just one of a long list:

    1.USA war plans against Syria already in 2001:
    more detailed: A list of wars against former soviet “client states”, eg Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran (actually also the US-ignited Yugoslavian civi war in 1999 did belong to this list):

    2.armed terrorist groups since the beginning:

    3.US-organized revolutions:

    4.The Syria war is an U.S. proxy guerrilla war: search for “us army unconventional warfare” USArmy-UW.pdf

    U.S. definition of “unconventional warfare”:
    source: Unconventional Warfare Special Forces
    Training Circular No.. 18-01, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Seeking: USArmy-UW.pdf

    The intent of U.S. Unconventional Warfare efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S.strategic objectives.” or: “There is another type of warfare —new in its intensity, ancient in its origin— war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest.”

    or:”1-1. The intent of U.S. UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives.”

    5.there are huge majorities of Assad, see huge pro-Assad-Demonstrations everywhere:

    6.The real “brutal dictator” and his wife – the desire of the Islamic beheaders

    7.Media fraud (there are thousands!
    The priniciple is simple: kill Assad supporters, show then and tell Assad is killing civilians): samples of lies
    An 18-year-old “martyr girl”, allegedly beheaded, tortured, raped by Assad’s henchmen,” denies this in Syrian TV:–Td_8JXYk

    ! Al Jazeera Eye Witness EXPOSED in Syria 01-03-2012 While waiting on the phone for getting connected live with CNN, the correspondent signals his people when to start shooting. And indeed, on his signal a “dramatic turmoil of war” begins for CNN listeners. It sounds realy dramatic and real.

    8.The alleged freedom fighters:
    “Women and Children can be killed” (Free Syrian Army Hatemonger claims) (03/2012) Cleric advise
    Syria Hula Massacre, a CIA Death Squad False Flag Attack
    Turkey wants to expel Dari Darnell, the US Consul in the country, accusing him of assisting Syrian terrorists and sending some 5,000 insurgents to the country, the deputy-head of Turkey’s Workers’ Party stated on Monday:

    Turkish Politician: CIA hired 6000 mercenaries for war in Syria, said vize president of Turish worker party, Bulent Aslanoglu. The mercenaries ar Arabs, Turks and Afghanis. They should get a very high salary from Blackwater.
    Saudis are sending suicid bombers:
    Father is auctioning his son as a suicide bomber for use in BABA AMR in Homs (Syria), in Saudi Arabia for $ 600,000:
    YT user kosovasunimuslim wrote:
    Go to JIHAD in Syria ya Muslims – ASAD will fall “FREEDOM FIGHTERS are growing – because Muhajids from IRak Turkey and other places are going there - We will kill Asad and his wife .
    NATO caught sending 150 Tons of Weapons to Al-Qaeda and Terrorist Extremists in Syria.
    Advanced US anti-tank weapons from war lord Obama to its Syrian terrorists:
    French special forces captured in Syria:

  2. Mad Angel on FB
    August 13, 2012 at 13:13

    rlaing and Rehmat have the information right…..

    the article says “Although it is not true, as some legend has it, that the United States created Al Qaeda with its aid to the jihad against the Soviets, and although the Afghan Taliban was Pakistan’s child and not America’s, U.S. support and involvement in Afghanistan do underlie much of what bedevils that country and the United States today.


    and after claiming the US is trying to extInguish them to attack Afghanistan, now they’re supporting them in Sryia

    AND “the war in Iraq, sold partly on the idea that the United States would be lovingly showered with gratitude from Iraqis welcoming Americans as liberators. The war did not, of course, turn out anything like that…..THAT’S BECAUSE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WERE LIED TO…IT WAS ABOUT SADDAM CONSIDERING SELLING OIL IN EUROS AND OR GOLD (KINDA LIKE QADDAFI) AND WEAPONS MANUFACTURERS LIKE HALLIBURTON GETTING CONTRACTS THERE

    • dahoit
      August 15, 2012 at 17:38

      We were for em before we were against em!
      Hope and change springs eternal.
      shhh……Write In Ron!

  3. August 12, 2012 at 21:12

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  4. losangelesriots
    August 11, 2012 at 02:26

    Anti-War Liberals Push for Deeper Syrian Role

    quite a job the neocons are doing to the left. this article is evidence you wont find the truth here on this supposedly “liberal” site. and i thought “war is peace” was just catch phrase.

  5. rlaing
    August 10, 2012 at 14:29

    Iraqi and Afghan ingratitude for American help is only puzzling is you accept part of American propaganda at face value, and actually rather a small part.

    The war in Iraq was hardly sold on the basis of Iraqi gratitude at all: the initial claim, repeatedly emphasized (but not to the point where American liberals are actually able to remember it), was to defend America against imminent destruction from Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Does the phrase ‘We cannot wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud’ ring any bells? How about the Anthrax attacks? Or Saddam’s ties to the 9-11 hijackers?

    Maybe (and I know this is a radical thought) Iraqi hostility to America has something to do with smashing the country’s infrastructure to bits and leaving it a smoking ruin? Maybe it has something to do with America’s love not for democracy, but torture and murder? How about John Yoo and his advice to ‘crush the testicles of children’?

    When the mujahidin in Afghanistan were fighting a Russian occupier, America gave them money and weapons. The relationship was friendly. Now that they are fighting an American occupier, the relationship is hostile. Their behavior has been entirely consistent: they don’t like occupiers. It is not a question of ‘gratitude’.

    In short, America would get a lot less blame for bloody messes if it would refrain from manufacturing them.

  6. dahoit
    August 10, 2012 at 11:36

    The Ziomonsters are psycho hose beasts.Look at their fruit,all poison to US and themselves,but such is the way of insane meglomaniacs of pride of place,belied by their actual track record of nothing of importance to mankind other than screeds of hatred and bigotry,and kitsch as wisdom.

    • dahoit
      August 15, 2012 at 17:36

      When the Zionists learn to play well with others,and do unto others as they would have others do unto them,our problems will be solved,and Israel will be a plus instead of a negative.
      It’s up to you and your like minded to reach that civilized conclusion,go for it!
      BTW,Arabs were math pioneers,we adopted their numeric system, and astronomy,poetry and spiritualism are also among their various good human fruit.But hey,be myopic already!

  7. Frances in California
    August 9, 2012 at 19:14

    Oh, good. We’ll have two candidates for Commander in Chief, both of whom want to bomb Cambodia, er, I mean Syria.

  8. John-boy
    August 9, 2012 at 14:12

    Syria’s government – the one we’re trying to destroy – is already secular. As for democracy: Countries under imperial domination, as recent and distant history demonstrate the Arab lands surely are, need unity and solidarity to achieve real independence and freedom. They don’t need the gift of democracy handed to them by their oppressors in the West, the corrupt and backward absolute monarchies of the Gulf, or their former imperial overlords in Turkey. Syria is one of the few (two, with Algeria) Arab states remaining whose ideology is overtly anti-imperial. Israel being as much a British colonial creation as white Rhodesia was, it’s hardly surprising that pro-Israel propaganda activists like those at AEI would be demanding that the US bring democracy to Syria. After recent experiences in Iraq, any American who eagerly contemplates the takedown of the secular Arab government next door must have a psychopathic disregard for the lives and futures of the people of Syria.

  9. Mad Adam
    August 9, 2012 at 11:42

    Let’s give Krauhammer and Goldberg M-16’s and a plane ticket. Call us when you’re through.

    • August 10, 2012 at 08:28

      Yes, and also to “progressive columnist” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times (and Council on Foreign Relations) who so flippantly just pushed for the same lethal intervention: It’s sad to see so many “progressives” going to the neocon dark side. Why do you think that is? Only Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul and four other Republicans voted against AIPAC’s draconian (and also lethal) sanctions on Iran a few days ago.

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