Senator Tom Cotton has become one of most ambitious warhawks in not only the United States Senate, but all of Congress. Perhaps only rivaled by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, he seldom misses an opportunity to push an aggressive tone and call for an escalation of action.
Syria is no different.
The issues surrounding Syria are well-documented at this point. There has been an ongoing civil war with a brutal struggle between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and insurgent rebels. Caught in the crossfire are innocent civilians who are often left with their homes reduced to rubble and loved ones left dead in the streets.
President Assad has been accused for some time of using chemical weapons and other brutal tactics against civilians. While this is certainly wrong and appalling, the narrative we’re hearing isn’t entirely different from what we heard in the buildup to Iraq.
The invasion of Iraq was sold by a brilliant marketing campaign that portrayed Saddam Hussein as a brutal dictator who was the source of all of Iraq’s problems. While Hussein’s dictatorship was certainly full of problems, the Bush Administration had presented a case that an invasion would bring freedom and happiness to Iraq. Essentially, we would kick down the front door, walk right in, and democracy just happens.
It has been anything but that since.
The overthrow of Hussein did remove a dictator, but it also removed stability from the country. Worse, it also helped further destabilize the region. The insurgency received a boost from the collapse of Iraq and the result since has been a headache for everyone involved in the Middle East.
What will be the case in Syria?
Senator Cotton claims that we cannot be safe so long as the “Assad-Iran-Russia axis” leads Syria. This echoes former President George W. Bush’s call to stand up to the so-called “Axis Of Evil”, which included Iran, North Korea, and Iraq.
The rhetoric is recycled, but will the result be the same?
Given the continued existence and threat of ISIS, there is inherent risk in any move within the Middle East. Overthrowing even a dictator means the removal of a government, which then leaves control a wide open race. In the midst of chaos, democracy is not going to decide who runs the show.
This is the trouble in trying to decide a nation’s politics for another country. This is why Americans reacted strongly to the possibility of Russian involvement in the United States’ presidential elections. Each country should decide its own course.
There is hardly a question of President Assad’s method of governing, but the question relates to what comes after. Will the removal of Assad result in peace for Syrians and stability for the region? These are questions that hawks like Senator Cotton are not considering, as they become wrapped up in their quest for war and vendetta against the Russians.
Any move that isn’t well thought out could spell disaster for the country, the region, and in turn, an American military that is still wrapped up in the crossfire of it all.