Syria and Lessons Learned

We don't know who they are, but we know that we are for them. And it is possible that we are helping people that we have claimed to be against.

As we strongly condemn violence wrought in support of the Assad government, recent allegations of war crimes committed in the name of rebellion should give us pause to reexamine elements within the uprising. Before we declare our support for any side in a civil war, shouldn't we know who and what we are supporting?

"Sixteen months into the uprising in Syria, the United States is struggling to develop a clear understanding of opposition forces inside the country," The Washington Post reports. According to a report (PDF) by the Strategic Research and Communications Center, and adopted by the Syrian National Council, "The Syrian opposition continues to suffer from disunity... The current structure of the insurgency is atomized, hapless and beholden to no decisive authority. Many of these forces are housed in dozens of independent 'brigades,' named either for historical figures or recent victims of the Syrian uprising."

The report continues:

"In Western media portrayals, however, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is presented as the encompassing organization under which all rebel soldiers operate. Estimates for the total number of forces under the FSA's direct command range from 1,200 to 17,000."

Like in Libya and Iraq, the conflict has opened the floodgates to destructive outside influence. The Post reports "Arab intelligence services [are] eager to overthrow Assad," but cautions, "The foreign official cited concern that the opposition is at risk of becoming dominated by Islamists pushing for a Muslim Brotherhood government after Assad."

Without knowing who the disparate groups are and which group is responsible for which attack, how can we trust motivations or declarations? The Washington Post cites "U.S. intelligence analysts" reporting, "In contrast with the string of bombings earlier in the year, the latest attack has not been linked to al-Qaeda." (Emphasis added). The New York Times reports, "The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda."

Al Qaeda, Sunni extremists, the religious fundamentalists, Arab intelligence agencies... Who else might be operating in Syria?

Scores of people have died in Iraq from bombings carried out by al Qaeda. There is now growing evidence that al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have already moved into Syria. For countries like the U.S. playing an active role in encouraging this conflict, this should raise serious questions about fomenting instability and endless conflict.

Yesterday, Reuters reported a secret order from the White House to provide the rebel groups support to overthrow President Bashar Assad of Syria. We don't know who they are, but we know that we are for them. And it is possible that we are helping people that we have claimed to be against. Have we learned nothing from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya?