And it’s a resilient establishment–there is a limited range of opinion, and those outside of it don’t last very long.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote this about Our Excellent Syrian Intervention (boldface added):
Yes, we might be sending a message that using chemical weapons is unacceptable. But we will also be sending this message:
You [ISIL] can be a hardcore militant whose goal is to set up a fiefdom in an unstable neighboring country (Syria) to serve as a base of operations for destabilizing a fragile government that we have spent lives and treasure supporting, and we will attack the government that would oppose you.
That, too, is a statement. A fucking stupid statement. I understand why people want to do something–chemical weapons are awful (though when the U.S. used phosphorus–also a violation of chemical weapons treaties–in 2005 in Falluja, I think, at least, some of those calling Syria’s action unconscionable were quiet then). But we have little ability, short of a full-scale invasion, to do something about the situation, except possibly make it worse in ways we can’t even understand…
In fact I remember a Syrian Sunni colleague yelling, in the middle of an office argument, “I would rather have SHAYTAN ruling my country than Assad!” I’ve always wondered whether he still feels that way, now that he’s had a chance to see the heads stuck on poles in Raqqa. You want Shaytan, kid, sometimes you’re gonna get Shaytan.
Well, recent documents confirm just how stupid our foreign policy establishment is (boldface mine):
A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.
The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.”
According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the “Syrian opposition” — which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated “Salafist Principality” as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.
One would think that a key lesson of Sept. 11, 2001 was that supporting Salafist militants would eventually do more harm than good.
One would be wrong.
This was not only predictable, it was predicted.