It was called “Regime Change”, I believe. You remember it, right? A Brutal Dictator “gasses his own people”. He must be stopped. A clueless POTUS undertakes military action based on faulty intelligence and a poor grasp of regional politics, urged on by his generals assuring him that we’ll be welcomed as liberators. Remember?
The lead-up to the big action sequence is a lot of bickering among various factions, theories about the strength of the opposition (the fearsome “Republican Guard”, OMG), and finally a decisive gamble to go all in – Shock and Awe! A brief but heroic effort by our boys in uniform, and the day is won – the Brutal Dictator is rooted out from his spider hole, “tried”, and executed. Regime change is accomplished! A happy ending for all, as the U.S. is warmly embraced by the grateful “civilians” who devote their energies to baseball and car manufacturing , and the POTUS’ poll numbers shoot up as he rides a unicorn farting glitter over a huge rainbow. Remember? I actually don’t remember the ending too well, but I’m sure it was great.
There was some talk about a sequel. They were going to call it, “Regime Change – The Day After”, but no one had any idea what the plot might be, or who might replace the Brutal Dictator character, so they just forgot about it. They figured, let’s wait a few years and we’ll re-make the hugely successful original.
So our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is now saying Regime Change in Syria is “inevitable”. Assad must go. It’s now apparently a prerequisite to defeating ISIS. See, ISIS without their principle antagonist will wither away. The Brutal Dictator has gassed “his own people”, you see, and has thus crossed a line (“many, many lines” is what our beloved Man-Baby said), and the whole world thinks it’s time for us to exert our moral influence once more. Oh, and also, the dismal approval ratings of POTUS-45 could really use a boost.
I’ve already attempted to describe the complexity of the situation in Syria here before. Check this out for a refresher. Suffice it to say that it’s not something that can be “fixed” by a few well-crafted tweets followed by a few well-placed missiles. Especially not by a POTUS with the attention span of a gnat and no understanding of world affairs or history, and apparently no recollection of his own oft-repeated guidance on this issue, which has been a clear “Stay Out Of It” until now.
It boils down to this: there are no “good guys” to rescue here. And when Assad is gone, we’re not going to like whatever comes next, even a little bit. Oh, and ISIS will gain from this, as Putin has said.
And let me just say this once more about the whole “gassed his own people” thing. Saddam gassed some people who were living in what we’ve been calling “Iraq” since the end of World War I. The people he gassed were Shiite Muslims in the south, sometimes referred to as “Marsh Arabs”, and Kurds in the North. Neither of these were “his own people”, which were Tikriti Sunnis.
In that part of the world, there is no concept of liberal democracy, no protections of minority populations or their “rights”, no pluralistic, benevolent government of, by, and for the people. The model is and always has been, “Big Strong Man comes to power, stays for life, and uses the wealth of the country as his own, while taking good care of his own tribe and family and oppressing the hell out of everyone else.”
Before the Iraq war, Thomas Friedman asked in his New York Times columns, “Is Iraq the way it is because Saddam is the way he is, or is Saddam the way he is because Iraq is the way it is?”
Now we know, or at least we should know. The idea that getting rid of the dictator will give oxygen to all the Hamiltons and Jeffersons who have been hiding in the weeds all these years, just waiting to found a liberal democracy, is just fantasy.
But suddenly we want to try it all over again in what we’ve been calling “Syria” since the end of World War I. The Brutal Dictator has gassed some people that we’ve said are “his own”, but they aren’t. In this case, “his own people” would be members of the Shiite Alawite sect, the ruling minority clique around Assad. Of course he hasn’t gassed any of them, but that’s beside the point (though asserting it once again demonstrates our ignorance of the situation we want to “fix”). It’s the gassing of anybody at all that’s supposed to be our cue for action here.
The first movie wasn’t very good and certainly doesn’t need a re-make, but it did have one or two lessons that should have been learned. Learning lessons is apparently not the strength of the current administration.