By: Wesley Long
Senator John McCain of Arizona, longtime advocate of aggressive military interventionism, met with Syrian opposition leaders on Monday to discuss potential military aid to be funded by U.S. taxpayers, according to this report from The Daily Beast.
“McCain… made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria.”
“Prior to his visit inside Syria, McCain and Idris had separate meetings with two groups of FSA commanders and their Civil Revolutionary Council counterparts in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Rebel military and civilian leaders from all over Syria came to see McCain, including from Homs, Qusayr, Idlib, Damascus, and Aleppo. Idris led all the meetings.
The entire trip was coordinated with the help of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American nonprofit organization that works in support of the Syrian opposition.”
This news comes as U.S. lawmakers are increasingly moving towards arming the Syrian rebels. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced legislation authorizing the U.S. to provide small arms to Syrian opposition groups, citing vaguely defined “vital national interests”.
"This is an important moment," Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky commented. "You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It's an irony you cannot overcome." Correctly referencing the Free Syrian Army’s involvement with Arhar al Sham, a group which has coordinated actions with the al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.
We have seen this rhetoric before. It seems only yesterday that numerous voices in Congress, including McCain’s, were clamoring for a similar “no-fly zone” in Libya. Yet with the events of Benghazi still looming over U.S. policy towards that unstable North African state, we must ask ourselves, “Was it worth our tax dollars?” “Was it worth risking the life and limb of our servicemen?” and “Have we created enemies rather than friends?” International Interventionism, especially of a covert or military nature, always carries consequences. These reactions are referred to in intelligence communities as “blowback”. Recent U.S. history is laced with examples of this simple concept - from a CIA orchestrated coup in 1950s Iran, which has soured relations with that country, to the arming of Afghani “freedom fighters,” in the 1980s, who later turned their resources against our country, to the present day.
Perhaps there is merit to the foreign policy championed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who consistently advocated neutrality and warned against such unwarranted foreign entanglements.