Column: The case against invading Syria
Let me get this out of the way: The attacks on Paris were barbaric, horrifying and absolutely tragic in all senses of the words. As a nation, we must support France as much as we can. But to those who call for an invasion of Syria by the United States military, please look to recent history before repeating the same mistakes of the early 2000s.
The Islamic State, not the Syrian government, is a risk to the national security interest of the United States. While the IS operates in territories seized from Syria, getting involved in the Syrian civil war will not eliminate the global threat of radical Islamic terrorism. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrated the difficulties of winning a ground war against insurgent terrorists, and it would be foolish to invest the time and resources in another major Middle Eastern conflict.
Yet the United States must have a hand in the destruction of the Islamic State as well as the continuing fight against global terrorism. In order to do so, we have to update our strategies for defeating terrorist groups. We are losing the social media war against the IS — and it’s not close. We need to invest in combating the recruitment efforts of the IS through new media, as well as dismantling their economical resources through air power and diplomacy.
We learned in Afghanistan and Iraq that we can’t win the battle against terrorism on our own. France has taken a first step in the fight against the Islamic State, and we should let them lead. Russia has lent its support, and while we have a knee-jerk distrust of any Russian activity, we should support them as well. Let Putin send his army to Syria, and we should give the Russians support in any way we can. The Cold War is over, and we must find new allies in the war on terrorism.
We have the most powerful air force that the world has ever seen. An effective military strategy against the Islamic State would include a coalition of nations, with the United States providing the airpower. Let the French, Russian and Middle Eastern forces act on the ground and our air force can provide close air support to annihilate the IS resistance. The United States could provide special force units to support the coalition if absolutely necessary, but stopping short of a full-scale invasion is a must.
On the home front, we must stop playing into the Islamic State strategy. The anti-refugee and anti-Muslim narrative of many staunch conservatives furthers the Islamic State argument. If we’re to win the war on terrorism, we cannot be afraid of a faceless enemy. We cannot fear all Muslims because of the actions of a few. And we cannot turn away those desperately looking to us for help and refuge. Those refugees that we turn away are far more dangerous to the U.S. in the future than any refugees we vet and accept today. Turning away refugees is exactly what the Islamic State wants and expects us to do as it drives their narrative of the United States as a Muslim-hating nation — which drives their recruitment.
Global terrorism is not going away any time soon, but we cannot fight it with the same losing tactics that we’ve used since Vietnam. We need to defeat the Islamic State not only militarily but also economically, socially and politically. Putting thousands of troops in Syria will not help anything, but will cost the U.S. millions of dollars and too many lives. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. Let us be the generation that does not bog our country down in a war like Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq.