U.S. intervention in Syria: War for virtue
By Henry Allen, Published: September 1
Henry Allen, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2000, was a Post editor and reporter for 39 years.
Where were the smiles, the flowers? We’d expected, in a modest way, to be greeted as liberators.
This was many years ago, Chu Lai, South Vietnam, 1966, in one of the early disasters of the United States’ post-World War II attempts to fight wars for virtue. People in the villages refused to meet our eyes, and they only smiled if they were selling us something.
My experience in VietNam was two years later and two Corps north of Mr. Allen’s. By that time, the lack of ability to trust the LIP was exceeded only by the lack of ability to trust the ARVN. We ran Civic Action, held clinics for local villages, hired thousands of day laborers, and contributed far more than we were aware to the local black markets. Still, we were viewed as intruders, easily identified, unable to speak to the LIP without using pidgin or interpreters.
We didn’t find a good war in VietNam. We did bring about a huge stampede of our chosen officials and officers, trying desperately to get their personal fortunes out before the country became VietNam rather than South Vietnam.
We’ve shifted from a conscript army with a professional core cadre to a professional military. We’ve assumed a large amount of anti-piracy duty. We’ve used our military for disaster relief. We’ve overturned governments and exported anti-terrorism with little real awareness at home just how many troops are deployed, how thin our forces are. We are content to let the professionals place their lives on the line while most Americans refuse national service. We claim that we are on the side of “right.” Money in the Swiss accounts of foreign leaders may buy some “right” but it quickly vanishes when we leave and take what money we have not paid to warlords and thieves in office with us. Currently, we are in no position to proclaim any “good war.” Looking at the political and religious make up of the current world, we may never see another “good war.”
However, the arms manufactures keep making their noisy toys to sell to our current batch of friendlies. Corporation support for modern warfare expands geometrically along with the cost of weaponry.
Syria has no “good” nature. There is no reason to take any action other than finding a way to seize and freeze the offshore assets of al-Assad and his officers. Any other effort we make to intervene in Syria will, despite Obama’s proclamation, wind up putting our troops into Syrian air space and on Syrian soil. Any member of our military understands that at the core level of their job.
Today is Labor Day. There is some reason to celebrate the improvement in the economy. There is little reason to celebrate the harm done to the American working class, former middle class, and people looking for work that pays enough to live on.