Although American interventionism in the Middle East never completely ceased, it’s become a newly pressing issue in recent days following the Trump administration’s decision to strike a Syrian government airfield in “retaliation” to a recent chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians.
Critics quickly decried the strike as an example of the same failed foreign policy that created the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Syria strike didn’t accomplish anything substantive; the base that we struck is still operational.
If the strike didn’t even disable the base that we targeted, then what usefulness did it have? Obviously it wasn’t without cost, both in tangible and intangible terms. Each missile used in the strike cost millions of dollars, and we have provoked a host of generally belligerent nations to set their sights on us.
Was the strike worth carrying out as nothing more than a show of American might? Although he doesn’t address the Syria strike directly, John F. Kennedy’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., shows in a recent editorial for EcoWatch that the answer to the previous question is a resounding no.
There is effectively no place for shows of American might and “intolerance for evil” in the modern Middle East. You can’t fight a war and not fight it; tip-toeing around the outside of a conflict is not ever going to be helpful. It’s delusional for the U.S. to ever assume that military intervention on our part can be anything but tip-toeing around the edge of a conflict, seeing as we’re not the one-all end-all who can put a stop to all wars.
As Kennedy explains in great detail, American military intervention actually helped create the modern global Islamic terrorism crisis in helping keep Middle Eastern conflicts going but not putting a stop to them. After all, as American leaders both decades ago and now seem to be unable to understand, not everything can be solved with bombs.
As JFK’s nephew wrote in his damning editorial:
‘As we focus on the rise of ISIS and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology and focus on the more complex rationales of history and oil, which mostly point the finger of blame for terrorism back at the champions of militarism, imperialism and petroleum here on our own shores.’
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. goes on, as mentioned, to describe the history of American military interventions in the Middle East, noting that the New York Times reported in 2015 that “ISIS political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention which, they know from experience, will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.” Trump has thus given ISIS what they want with his Syria strike.
Although Kennedy Jr. writes an admonishment for American politicians, saying, “Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective,” that admonishment didn’t stop Trump from “rushing deeper into the conflagration” with a strike on a Syrian government airfield last Thursday. That strike, in Kennedy’s estimation, is the latest in a long series of oil driven power grabs on America’s part, none of which have ended well.
Featured Image via Anthony Behar/ Pool via Bloomberg/Getty Images.