Interventionists have successfully pushed President Barack Obama into increasing military involvement in Syria. Their rationale feels eerily similar to the reasons used for the invasion of Iraq. Before our actions spin further out of control, we should pause to review the lessons learned from invading Iraq, Syria’s next-door neighbor.
Ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains in a state of continuing civil war-like violence. With a toll of more than 100,000 civilian deaths and far more injuries over the course of the war, the argument that we should enter Syria to stop the current carnage of this multi-faction war is undermined by our recent experience in the region. Just as our presence and choice of factions inflamed opposing groups in Iraq, many Syrians are bound to resent the presence of the U.S. This time, the added danger of other powers joining the fight in an all-out proxy war looms large. Russia is sending air and marine support; the U.S. has pledged small arms and anti-tank weapons; Iran has been funneling arms and manpower through Hezbollah.
In Iraq, a country known before the war as one with good relations and frequent marriages between Sunnis and Shiites, the divide between these groups is now larger than ever. Prior to the war, al-Qaida had no presence in Iraq; now the country lives under a continual cloud of al-Qaida-fueled violence. Instead of quieting sectarian divisions, our invasion only served to fuel divisiveness, violence and terrorist activity.
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