Syria is an argument against attacking Iran


The war in Syria may have just escalated, now that Syria has fired across the Turkish border. This is an argument against attacking Iran. I know that’s a jump. Stay with me.

One lesson history teaches over and over is there’s no need to create a crisis, because there’s one coming. At least one. Maybe you can’t predict when and where. Actually, almost guaranteed you can’t predict when and where, which is part of the point. There will be some unforeseen and maybe unforeseeable crisis. If you create a crisis, there’s a great chance you’ll get to deal with more than one at once.

Hopefully Iraq comes immediately to mind. Even if, when thinking back before Bush’s invasion, it seemed plausible to likely that Iraq was working with Al Qaida or developing WMD, it wasn’t an immediate crisis. By invading Iraq and creating a problem, Bush had two wars to cope with since, oops!, Afghanistan wasn’t actually done. The resources that went into Iraq, not just people or money, but crucially the administration’s attention, could have gone to Afghanistan, or Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia … you get the point.

That’s just the most recent example. Check that: we still had troops in Iraq when Arab Spring broke out. Might have been nice to not have Iraq to worry about during that time.

Kind of sad I don’t need to go back more than a decade to find examples of one crisis coming up when someone chose to create another. Figured I’d at least have to go back to Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, if not back to “never fight a two-front war.”

This is entirely apart from whether Iran really wants a bomb, whether the US should allow it or even could prevent it. It’s also apart from what should be done about Syria and, if it comes to military intervention, who should do it and how it should be done.

The key question is what would happen if the US attacked Iran, or if Israel attacked Iran since even if Israel did so despite strong US objections, no one would believe our government didn’t grant permission regardless of who wins the presidential election. The answer is we don’t know what would happen, but hard to see it being anything but bad. Hard to see the attack being the end of the crisis rather than the beginning. So we’ll have some sort of new crisis, with Syria still a crisis, with everything else that’s going on that region still going on, our sudden need to attend to Iran not withstanding.

Not a small point, that’s just the Middle East. There’s the whole rest of the planet. Sometimes crises happen elsewhere. Internal drivers of a foreign policy crisis have little interest in whether the timing is inconvenient for the outside world. Seems worth keeping in mind.

If reluctant Democrats need a reason to do whatever it takes to get Obama reelected, then keep in mind that the Republican presidential candidate will almost surely be someone who has been parroting the lines of the neocons who got us into Iraq despite the war in Afghanistan. They’ve shown so little ability to learn from history, even recent history, that listening to calls to attack Iran make it seem like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are still around.