If We Stop Arming, Funding and Training Terrorists, then Maybe We Won’t Have to Bomb Them Later
U.S. foreign policy is schizophrenic.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we need to attack the Sunni militants in Syria.
The deputy national security adviser to President Obama says we should go after ISIS in Syria.
But the U.S. and our closest allies have long supported Sunni militants.
And the U.S. and our closest allies have been arming and training Islamic jihadists in Syria for years. And see this, this, this and this.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a fortune-teller to have known this was a bad idea.
As Michael Shank – Adjunct Faculty and Board Member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – warned a year ago:
The Senate and House Intelligence committees’ about-face decision last week to arm the rebels in Syria is dangerous and disconcerting. The weapons will assuredly end up in the wrong hands and will only escalate the slaughter in Syria. Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in some unsavory hands. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria.
Congress can still join with the 70 percent of Americans who oppose arming Syria rebels and heed former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s caution against arming the rebels (he called the Obama administration’s decision to do so “a mess in the making“) ….
Arming one side of Syria’s multi-sided and bloody civil war will come back to haunt us. Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.
There is no unified command or control in the Syrian opposition, as was the case of the Afghan mujahideen. And due to the United States’ long history of diplomatically isolating Syria, we know even less about the nature of Syria’s opposition. The excuse that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is often invoked to justify anti-Assad forces. This short-sighted excuse has gained the U.S. enemies around the world, undermining U.S. national security. The same justification was used by the Bush administration in its collaboration with the Assad regime to torture suspected militants in Syria. Arming the enemies of our enemies hasn’t made the U.S. more friends; it has made the U.S. more enemies.
Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation altogether. Yet these are the same groups that will likely seize control of U.S.-supplied weapons, just as they’ve already seized control of the bulk of the rebels’ weaponry.
When you lift the curtain on the armed groups with the most formidable military presence on the ground in Syria, you find the Al Nusra Front and Al Farough Brigades. Both groups are closely aligned with Al Qaeda and have directly perpetrated barbaric atrocities. The Al Nusra Front has been charged with beheadings of civilians, while a commander from the Al Farough Brigades reportedly ate the heart of a pro-Assad soldier.
Shank’s warning was ignored, and his worst fears came to pass.
And the U.S. is still financing the jihadis in Syria. For example, the government is pushing an additional $500 million in arms to the jihadis.
We are literally bombing our own weapons.
A similar dynamic is operating in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. is now arming the “Peshmerga” (i.e. the Kurdish soldiers).
But the Wall Street Journal notes that there are reports that Peshmerga are fighting side-by-side with the PKK … a group designated as terrorists by the U.S.:
A U.S. defense official couldn’t confirm whether the meeting took place and stressed in response to reports that the PKK was fighting alongside the Peshmerga that “it’s hard to tell from Washington who’s on the front line in a Kurdish-Iraqi fight.”
The U.S. has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, and the U.S. “doesn’t do business with them,” the official added.
By arming the Peshmerga, the U.S. is also putting weapons into the hands of the PKK.
If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.