“The whole of the Middle East is intimately related. Beneath the smooth
surface of British rule and the slender garrisons which normally sustain it are
smouldering the antagonisms of centuries. There are always feuds and animosities.
There are always scores to be settled and fanatical thirsts to be slaked.”
- Winston Churchill, 1929
American sabre rattling has started over Syria. Will President Obama now send troops, tanks and planes to intervene? As commentator Robert Tracinski wonders, “Maybe he will, maybe he won't, maybe it's already too late. Maybe he'll wait for the French to do it.”
But if he does, which way would he have them point their guns?
The Syrian regime has been helping the Iranian revolution go nuclear, helping Hezbollah send missiles into Israel, and (arguably) helped itself to Iraqi chemical weapons and technology before and during the Iraq war. And last week, and maybe months ago as well, it reportedly helped send out a gas attack killing thousands of anti-regime Syrians.
And the rebels opposing the Syrian regime? They’re the same brand of Islamists ousted so violently in Egypt because they were in the process of rapidly setting up an Islamic dictatorship. "Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of." And those fighting forces you can speak of fly the black flag of Al Qaeda—no less brutal than Assad, and even more virulently opposed to the West.
Tragic though the conflict is then, the West has no dog in this particular civil war. It has nothing for which to support the regime, and no reason to support its (and our) long-term Islamist enemies.
Perhaps the only role for the West here is the one counselled by Margaret Thatcher in Yugoslavia once Tito died and the scab was ripped off a century or more of tribal hatred: “End the arms embargoes and seal the borders.”
I fear however the West is instead about to arm its enemies.