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Any U.S. action in Syria will have consequences for years to come

September 05, 2013

Those who claim to know the correct course for America to steer in the war-torn nation of Syria are smarter people than we are.

On one hand, it is impossible to see the photographs of gas-seared toddlers and not demand action. The atrocities of Hitler had to be checked, so why is the Assad regime any different?

Yet war crimes have not always solicited U.S. intervention, as countless brutal conflicts in Africa would attest. Nor can we ignore the painful lessons of the past decade-plus.

Iraq proved that intelligence is not always correct. And that we need to be certain we are correct before entering a fray with guns blazing.

Afghanistan has taught us that “limited” engagements sometimes become limitless. Can we really expect to sail in, launch some missiles and then act as if that has settled anything?

And things are different now than they were even a handful of years ago. We have seen how one or two unarmed computer hackers can launch an assault against American institutions, and we are largely powerless to stop the attack. It seems ludicrous to think that one man behind a keyboard can hold hostage the most powerful nation on earth, but this is where the state of technology stands, and such matters must at least be considered.

What we do know is this: Interference in Middle Eastern affairs almost never works out well. The region is too complex, too volatile for the laws of logic and reason to apply.

It is true that there are crimes against humanity that cannot be ignored. But it is equally true, particularly in the Middle East, that today’s rebels are tomorrow’s demons. With no clear “good guy” to support, how can we know that those who would overthrow Assad would not commit atrocities of their own were they to assume power?

There are circumstances in this world for which there are no good solutions.

If our leaders decide that even a measured military response is required, we should go into it with our eyes wide open: These things rarely are done without long-term consequences.

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