Let’s stay out of Syria

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Regarding Syria, Sarah Palin recently advised, “Let Allah sort it out.” This is a great, if controversial, line. It also happens to have the benefit of being wise. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently told me, “[T]he question is: ‘Who’s going to replace [Assad]?’ Is it going to be a radical Islamist? And how do we know?”

How do we know? Well, CNN is now reporting this: “Al Qaeda’s affiliate inside Syria is now the best-equipped arm of the terror group in existence today, according to informal assessments by U.S. and Middle East intelligence agencies, a private sector analyst directly familiar with the information told CNN.”

I’m neither an interventionist nor a non-interventionist. America must be a force for good in the world, but doing so requires knowing when to intervene and when not to intervene. It may well be that a year or so ago, we could have backed moderate rebels, but that ship has sailed. We can blame Obama for failing to act, but that shouldn’t impact how we proceed.

To be sure, there are some good things that could come from ousting the current regime. Obviously Assad is a despot. And it would be terrific to deal a blow to Iran and Russia. But there is no telling what happens once we get in the middle of this sectarian civil war. And besides, there are no good guys. We either back a dictator or Islamists. The choice is likely between Al Qaeda or Hezbollah.

Is it worth expending an ounce of American treasure and blood if the most likely scenario is that we end up with an Islamist leader of Syria instead of the current regime? I think we all know the answer to that. I’m with Palin, not McCain, on this one.

Matt K. Lewis