Unnoticed under the fireworks and fanfare of the election, a significant military development lit up the Middle East desert in a brief, surgically-shaped flash: The United States military attacked Syria.
Official media in Damascus reported earlier that the helicopter-borne troops from Iraq launched an assault on a building site in Al-Sukkiraya village, which lies just eight kilometres (five miles) from the border on the Euphrates river and close to the Iraqi town of Al-Qaim, a stronghold of Al-Qaeda and other insurgents.
Despite the hundreds of civilians who turned out for funereal processions and anti-American chanting the day after the assault, I see this assault into Syria as a good thing. The Global War on Terror demands a certain fluidity when borders are concerned, with one crucial caveat: We can’t use so much force that the nation whose sovereignty we violated actually begins to go into war mode against us. As strapped for cash, grunts and allies as we are, we can’t afford Syria beginning to shift into a massive anti-American paramilitary campaign, let alone slapping down a declaration of capital-W “War.”
But just as war is defined as “diplomacy by other means,” diplomacy is an important instrument of war. And so, just as we have to recognize the permeability of borders in a global war against a non-state actor like Al-Qaeda, we have to recognize that there are too legitimate militaries on either side of each border.
This operation underscores the unilateralism – the go-it-alone approach – of the Bush administration. Duplicitous as they are distrustful, they pour billions of our tax dollars into military aid for nations like Pakistan and Egypt, while using the other hand to slip SpecFor in through the back door for off-the-books strikes like the one on October 27th. This has to change.
Fortunately for America’s future as a military hegemon, we have a powerful change agent: General Petraeus.
…Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East.
The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon.
Petraeus is, as I’ve mentioned, the Pompey Magnus of our times – a cunning general, as superb in organizing as in personal glory, who realizes that war doesn’t mean an end to the “carrot and stick” approach of diplomacy; just bigger sticks and carrots. He bought off the Big Bad in Iraq – the Sunni militias – and so won them to our side; he out-manuevered the pro-Ayatollah Iraqi regime and swept their Iran-backed security forces out of power; he’s seen to the isolation of al-Q in Iraq.
Now he has his sights set on getting the Syrians on the right team and playing hard for our “big win,” looking to get Syria policing its own borders along with us, rather than against us. And with a man as persistent as Petraeus, there’s hope for the future despite the lock-down of the present Administration.
Petraeus would likely find a more receptive audience for his approach in an Obama administration, given Barack Obama’s views on the need to engage America’s enemies.
So keep those fingers crossed even tighter for an Obama victory three days from now, dear reader. Not only would it mean the views of most prudent economists and strategists will be vindicated, rather than quashed as under a McCain-Palin rule. It would mean that our best General, our best hope to untangle the gory agonies we trod into overseas, would be listened to rather than used as a showpiece.