Top Ten Reasons Romney Shouldn’t Arm Syrian Rebels

GOP presidential hopeful Willard “Mitt” Romney has called on President Barack Obama to arm the Syrian opposition, accusing the president of lacking leadership for declining to do so.

Romney can’t decide whether he is afraid of Muslims or wants to give them sophisticated weapons. He once explained that he did not want to focus on killing Bin Laden because he was just one leader, and the problem was ‘Sunni and Shia’ and ‘the Muslim Brotherhood and … Hizbullah… etc.’ In other words, Romney looks at a fifth of humankind and jumps out of his skin in fright that there might be Muslims out there.

Romney does not seem to know that the ruling Baath Party in Syria is a secular party founded by Arab Christians and supported by many Syrian Christians, Alawis (folk Shiites) and secular Sunnis. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood being part of the coalition that overthrows the Baath, since the al-Assad version of the party has gone fascist and verges on the genocidal. But Romney at least tried to demonize the Muslim Brotherhood as somehow part of the same phenomenon as al-Qaeda (it is not). He is, let us say, being inconsistent.

So here are some reasons Gov. Romney might consider as to why arming the Syrian rebels is a very bad idea.

1. Once a country is flooded with weapons, they don’t stay in that country. They get resold and spread around the region. Egypt has seen a spike in shootings because of the influx of Libyan guns, and the Egyptian military even intercepted a shipment of smuggled rocket-propelled grenades. The Israelis are petrified that some of the more sophisticated rocket propelled grenades that Qatar gave the Libyan rebels are making their way into Gaza and be used by Hamas against its soldiers. Arms given Syrian rebels will subsequently make their way into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza and Egypt. Is that wise?

2. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is among those fighting the Syrian regime. So far it is a bit player in that country, but it certainly would be among the groups receiving American weapons from Romney. Since ISoI has killed a lot of US troops and keeps blowing up Baghdad (its attacks left 18 dead in Baghdad yesterday) — is that wise?

3. Armed militias are hard to demobilize. Libya still suffers from this problem outside the big urban centers. You can tell ordinary soldiers to turn in their weapons and go home. Militiamen will try to keep power, or will hold you hostage with their guns until you pay them off. A post-revolution Syria will be much more stable if it is brought to power by relatively peaceful crowds, as happened in Tunisia and Egypt, than if tribal and sectarian armed gangs come out on top.

4. Syria is geopolitically too important to flood with powerful arms. It abuts Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. A US-supplied war that spills over onto these countries is a nightmare for US policy.

5. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has entered a new and dangerous phase, with a significant expansion of Israeli theft of land and resources from Palestinians of the West Bank. The latter had been convinced to lay down their arms and join in a ‘peace process.’ The combination of the betrayal of all the promises made to the Palestinians about giving them a state and returning to them their territory, along with easy availability of US arms from Syria, might well provoke another violent Intifida or uprising.

6. The conflict in Syria is already threatening to destabilize Lebanon. That country’s disarming of its sectarian militias in the 1990s after the Ta’if Accords was a major achievement for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. American arms given to Syrian rebels would risk reviving armed militias in Lebanon, where some groups (the Shiite Hizbullah e.g.) favor the al-Assad regime whereas others (many Sunnis) support the Syrian opposition. There have already been clashes between Allawis and Sunnis in the northern city of Tripoli.

7. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood sympathizes profoundly with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group based in Gaza. A Syrian MB armed to the teeth with sophisticated US weapons would be tempted to share them with its sister organization, Hamas. Is that what Romney wants?

8. Turkey is set to grow 9% this year, and is among the few bright spots in the economy of the greater Mediterranean. Arms to Syrian rebels would certainly make their way into Turkey, which faces a challenge from the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) terrorist group, which blows things up in eastern Anatolia. Destabilizing Turkey would have negative effects on everything from European trade to that of northern Iraq.

9. Highly armed Sunni militias, having taken over Damascus, are likely to oppose the Shiite government in Baghdad that Romney’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, established. Another big round of violence in Iraq is highly undesirable, with destabilizing implications for US allies in the Gulf, including Bahrain, and it would likely cause the Shiite government of Iraq to move even closer to Iran.

10. If the revolution does succeed, it is desirable that the victorious groups move toward parliamentary democracy. A set of militias armed to the teeth will impede that transition, especially if some of the groups are big and well organized, as with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Romney has gone from accusing all the Muslims of working conspiratorially toward a new Caliphate to volunteering to fund Muslim fundamentalist militias in a quest to overthrow the secular Baath Party. It is a baffling set of contradictions, pointing both to his lack of a consistent policy toward the Middle East and to his being altogether unprepared to be president.

18 Responses

  1. Libyan weapons also flowed into Mali, causing unrest in the Sahel. To be continued.

  2. Interesting insight, though I really can’t see how peaceful Syrian crowds as in Tunisia and Egypt will bring down this brutal regime. The conflict already far too militarised.

  3. business-as-usual doesn’t care who wins the american presidency, the dollars will continue to flow … implicit is, they don’t care what happens in syria, as long as the dollars continue to flow

  4. Alawi (not “Allawi”)

    The ‘folk-Shiite’ sect in Syria are the Alawis (علويون); in the mandate period between the two world wars, the French called them Alaouites..

    Allawi (علاوي), with a double “l” and a long second vowel, is the name of the former Iraqi prime minister.

  5. Romney may say and do anything to be President, but he is not incapable of grasping the complexity and danger of the Syrian situation once he gets to be The Man.

    The question is how he will actually act, having said everything he’s said, and how his freedom of action will have been compromised by everything he will have said and done (people appointed) to get the job.

    • Since when does everything he’s said and done limit Romney’s freedom of action to do the opposite? It did not limit Obama’s.

  6. Willard Mitt may well be afraid of Muslims but it is a certainty that he would never miss a chance to enhance a stock price by failing to push weapondry down anyone’s throat. It would simply be good for the economy.
    Shoot before you think is Mitt.

  7. Let make Syria the new Afghanistan (all broken up with warlords and sects, militias) and Iran the new Pakistan (economically and socially broken, maybe even armed with nuclear weapons) Iraq the new Sudan and so on. “A US-supplied war that spills over onto these countries is a nightmare for US policy” with so many countries in need of international community (Aka whitey) attentions, it will be a dream for security firms and arms merchants and big oil and the only way an empire can prosper and expand.
    “”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.””

  8. Obama is bad enough, but the Mutt seems incredibly ignorant as well as racist, islamophobic, Bibiphilic and ugly!

  9. This is probably off topic, but whenever I see one of these stories about Christian extremism in America I can’t sleep unless I’ve passed it along and I can’t think of a better place than Prof. Cole’s site. In this case, it’s the coordinated indoctrination of kids at Christian clubs at over 3200 public schools to not only confront, but embrace Old Testament accounts of Jehovah-ordered genocide by Hebrews against other Middle Eastern peoples.

    link to

    This is a big step by far-right Christians, who have always soft-pedaled the murderous aspects of Jehovah when in the public eye. Here is a chilling excerpt from the article:

    ‘Paraphrasing the Old Testament scripture I Samuel 15:2-3, the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s new lesson plan teaches, “You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left.” The manual then instructs the teacher to tell students, “That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?”‘

    For God’s sake (!), every single time you read or hear a Christian proclaim that only Moslems are violent or imperialist, hit them with this. Hit them hard. I’m bookmarking it for that very reason. There is no purpose to such indoctrination unless they’re preparing to divine God’s intentions about whom to murder right now at home or abroad.

    • There is a very powerful Christian fundametalist community in the United States that teaches that the State of Israel’s existence is of divine origin and must be blindly supported as a Christian imperative.

      Thomas Friedman, in his award-winning book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” touched upon this topic when he opined that Israeli leaders are not aware that these Christian fundamentalist groups, primarily Baptist and Pentecostal, generally have no affinity to Israel in identifying with them in a political sense, but rather see Israel as a religious state that carries with it both theological and eschatological significance.

      • True as far as you go. But the key reason for their support lies in Revelation, which says that Jews must return to Israel before the second coming of Christ. After that, either they will convert to believe in him or be dammed in hell.

        • I’ve read that anti-Arab bigots in Israel teach that the Palestinians are the descendants of the Amelekites. Given the growing connections between those bigots and American Christian fundamentalists in cultivating illegal settlements, I wonder how long it is before the CEF curriculum is openly stated as a holy truth, and that America is thereby obligated to assist Israel in ethnic cleansing.

  10. Not all the Lebanese militias disarmed after Taif! Everyone has guns under the bed, and of course, H has them underground.

    • As far as I can tell, Hezbollah does a better job of governing both its own Shia base and people of other faiths than any of the other crooks and princelings found east of Suez. Maybe Lebanon and Syria should be reunited under the one organization most competent at basic functions of government until they’re all ready for real power sharing. Oh, but I forgot that one’s ability to rule Sunnis is strictly based on what bribery the Saudis will subsidize.

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