The latest chemical attack in Syria is heart churning and an affront to humanity. The images and videos of women and babies felled by some unseen gas should shatter any human soul staring at them. The barbarous assault shows the hell of war, and whoever conducted the attack- whether it be the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, or someone else- is a stain on humanity.
There are still alternatives to the U.S. escalating its war in Syria. None of these alternatives will appease the hawks who want to wipe the Syrian government from the map nor will they appease the doves who do not want to get involved in a civil war the U.S. has no business pushing itself more into by the day.
The hard truth is Bashar al-Assad is not a threat to the United States. He is a dictator looking to stay on the throne, and doesn’t appear interested in expanding his power beyond his borders. Assad is also a tyrant, who is willing to cross so-called red lines and do whatever possible to destroy the rebels who want to depose his rule. His opponents are a hodgepodge of Islamists, Christians, and freedom fighters who have an assortment of goals including the establishment of a democracy, destroying and replacing Assad, or establishing an Islamic state. The murkiness of the entire situation makes it extremely hard for any government to pick winners and losers, even though everyone from France to the United States to Saudi Arabia have tried.
There is no reason for America to put more ground troops in Syria because land wars in Asia tend to be a bad idea. However, it doesn’t mean individual Americans can’t choose to go to war in Syria. There are plenty of examples of American volunteers deciding to get involved in wars the nation itself wasn’t party to. This includes the Eagle Squadrons and American Volunteer Group aka The Flying Tigers of World War II, men who decided to leave the reserves (with American government permission) or sneaked into other countries to go fight abroad. There were also American men and women who volunteered for France or Great Britain in World War I, choosing to head over to Europe to assist the fight against the Central Powers, including the American Ambulance Field Service. American volunteers were also involved in the Spanish Civil War, if you would believe it. Individual Americans have been willing to be volunteer combatants before, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to do it in this civil war, whether it’s joining Saudi Arabia’s military or Qatar’s or one of the Syrian rebel groups. Foreign Policy pointed out in 2011 there are caveats, including joining forces which are fighting Americans or being recruited to fight for a foreign power, but America tends to be okay with its citizens going to another country to fight.
Another alternative is the use of private military contractors to accomplish goals in war. Reason’s John Stossel looked at the good PMCs can do last year, including fighting Somali pirates. Yes, PMCs can do, or be accused of doing, horribly awful things and they need to be held accountable. Yet, it might be easier for civilians to contract a PMC versus hoping the military itself will get involved in a civil war. The key phrase is civilians, not the government itself. S.E. Cupp lamented on Twitter last night how people can watch the slaughter and say, “We should do nothing?” Maybe it’s time for someone to raise money to hire a PMC to go into Syria and fight against Assad. There are ways to do crowdfunding or reach out to various individuals to raise money for a war on Assad, and maybe people are doing this already in private. I might even be willing to donate to this kind of cause, if I trust the person running the fundraiser. Might is the key word, though.
It should be pointed out these are only outside the box suggestions to the current idea of America either going “all in” or “doing nothing.” I do not believe the United States military needs to be more involved in this civil war than it already is, with around 2K troops in Syra. There certainly shouldn’t be a commitment to getting more involved in Syria without a congressional vote, since they are the only branch of government allowed to declare war. I would not necessarily be against individual Americans deciding they wanted to stop the slaughter in Syria by either going to fight or help civilians in need by getting them to safety. It isn’t a perfect solution, because war never changes, but it might be the better than getting more involved in another war our country has no business being involved in.
Of course, I also expect none of these to be considered, and the U.S. to instead go to war, in some form, again.