The administration of President Barack Obama announced Thursday a decision to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels.
It posited its choice in part on intelligence it says it has that the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons on the rebels. The specific weapon mentioned was sarin gas, America's "scare" chemical weapon of choice. Caution is recommended: President George W. Bush pulled America into the eight-year-long Iraq War on false claims of Iraq's possessing weapons of mass destruction and contacts with al-Qaida on the basis of such intelligence.
This time the contacts with al-Qaida are well-known among some of the Syrian rebels to whom America will be providing arms.
The Obama administration claims that it has no immediate plans to put American "boots on the ground." At the same time, there is no history of the United States providing foreign forces arms without also providing training to teach them how to use their new, sometimes sophisticated American arms. Frequently, also, the U.S. training forces stick around for the battles in which the arms are used, to be sure that foreign forces don't shoot themselves in the foot. So Thursday's decision is probably the first step in America's engaging its own forces in the Syrian conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already said he is opposed to the U.S. action as further militarization of the Syrian conflict. The Syrian government and senior Russian political figures have called the U.S. claims about chemical weapons "fabrications," reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The Obama administration made no mention of how the United States plans to pay for the new involvement in the context of Washington budget-cutting, including sequestration. Part of the current high national debt is what the unfunded Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost, calculated to be in trillions of dollars.
Mr. Obama's decision to intervene militarily in the Syrian conflict is wrong. If it was made in response to questionable intelligence about Syrian use of chemical weapons, it was another effort on the part of the Obama administration to scare the American people into an unwise action. If it was made in response to new information that the death toll in Syria has risen to 93,000 it is impossible to imagine that introducing new U.S. arms into the war will not cause that total to rise further.
The only winners on the American side are people like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the U.S. arms industry. We note that the decision was not preceded by any congressional discussion.opinion_editorials