A Syrian Disaster: Arming the Enemy

“And the United States, to some extent, has to acknowledge, being among the creators of the problem we are now dealing with [in Afghanistan]. It seemed like a great idea, back in the ’80s to — embolden — and train and equip — Taliban, mujahidin, jihadists against the Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. And with our help, and with the Pakistani support — this group — including, at that time, Bin Laden, defeated the Soviet Union. Drove them out of Afghanistan, eventually. Saw the fall of the government that they had installed. And the rest we know. They eventually took over.” – Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, October 6, 2009 [CBS].

A great many people agree that learning from one’s past is tantamount to future success. We must examine our errors, analyze our mistakes, and do something differently. President Obama, and frankly much of Congress, have yet to learn that lesson.

Thirty-four years ago, at the tail-end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to prop-up the nation’s besieged Communist government. What was supposed to be a simple mission (get in, crush an anti-Communist insurgency, and get out) turned into a ten-year quagmire, costing the USSR upwards of 15,000 dead and 53,000 wounded. As the war dragged on, and Soviet forces grew weaker, the United States began to actively arm Muslim insurgents, hoping to strike yet another blow against its Communist enemy. Finally, after ten years of fighting, the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its troops.

In 1996, following a bloody civil war, the radical Muslim insurgents who had defeated the USSR seven years prior seized control of the Afghan government, forming the ruthless Taliban regime that would dominate national politics for the next five years. Armed with Western guns and emboldened by their improbable victory over the Soviet Union, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with utter brutality and a complete disregard for basic human rights. In the end, the Taliban, which took power with an American gun slung over its shoulder, returned no favors, harboring Al-Qaeda mastermind Usama bin Laden as he planned the bloodiest terrorist attack in American history.

That’s Afghanistan. This is Syria: An evil government oppresses its people (Assad); the people rise up (Syrian rebels); Communist/extremist government(s) step in to prop-up the current regime (Russia, China, and Iran); Western power(s) arm extremist rebel forces to defeat the oppressive government and weaken that government’s supporters (United States). How will it end? History tells us everything we need to know.

An evil government oppresses its people (Afghan Communist regime); the people rise up (Muslim guerillas); Communist government steps in to prop-up current regime (Soviet Union); Western power(s) arm extremist rebel forces to defeat the oppressive government and weaken that government’s supporters (United States); rebels form new government after bloody civil war, oppress people once again, and harbor wanted terrorists (Taliban).

History has spoken. The rebels in Syria, just like the rebels in Afghanistan, have links to terrorism. Sure, our government claims to be vetting every rebel group that receives arms, but do you seriously think we can control where those arms go after they’re out of our sight?

If the rebels win the war and seize control of Syria, a second civil war will likely follow, with extremist rebels on one side and moderate rebels on the other. Considering moderate leaders have already stated they won’t share Western arms with the extremists, it’s not hard to believe that the two sides won’t get along at war’s end.

A second civil war would render us powerless. If the extremists were to seize any of our weapons, we could but watch helplessly as “Made in the U.S.A.” gunned down innocent civilians and ex-allies. We cannot let that happen.

The Syrian Civil War has Afghanistan-redux written all over it. When Vladimir Putin warns you not to support a group due to its “terrorist ties,” you should probably listen.

So I plead: learn from history. Don’t make the same mistake again; don’t arm the enemy.