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 In June 2013 an intelligence assessment that determined that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against rebel forces prompted US President Barack Obama to provide direct military aid to Syrian rebels (Reuters, 14 June 2013).

By August 2014 Syrian rebels had themselves become a palpable threat to American interests. Following US airstrikes in Iraq targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), ISIL forces in Syria beheaded an American journalist, James Foley. One week later another American, Peter Theo Curtis, was freed by Nusra Front militants in Syria (Associated Press, 24 August 2014).

It should be pointed out that the groups receiving US aid are not the ones responsible for these two kidnappings. In fact, ransom from hostages is a major source of funding for these Islamist militias. Nevertheless, this sequence of events illustrates a frequent theme in American foreign policy. US intervention in a conflict facilitates a shift in power, but the new power structure is as great or greater a threat to American security.

There are once again calls for US military action in Syria. Perhaps the Obama Administration will authorize attacks on ISIL within Syria. Hopefully, they will not be foolish enough to direct airstrikes against the Syrian regime. If the US were to attack Assad directly, we might expect the same outcome as in Iraq. A brutal dictator is driven from power, a brief “democracy” is established, and then the country fragments into opposing factions because the dictator is no longer there to keep militias in check.

Literature Cited

Associated Press, 24 August 2014. US says American held in Syria has been freed.

Reuters, 14 June 2013. US accuses Syria President Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons, plans military aid to rebels. Reuters, accessed on 14 June 2013 at http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/us-accuses-syria-president-bashar-al-assad-on-chemical-weapons-plans-military-aid-to-rebels-379389.

 

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