Sadly, in my book, Forging Swords into Plows, I predicted the deteriorating situation now occurring in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In Chapter 5, I argued that after the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, violence between Sunnis and Shiites would resume and that Iraq would move toward either a dictatorship (probably under the current prime minister, al-Maliki) or fragment into three separate nations. In Chapter 6, I explain that Afghanistan has never had an effective central government, why Afghans widely regard their current leader, Hamid Karzai, as an American stooge, and that NATO nation building efforts have failed.
Nothing that has happened in the six months since I finished the book has caused me to alter my predictions.
Indeed, Iraq and Afghanistan are the two best arguments for the United States and other nations staying out of the current problems in Syria. The approximately 90,000 dead are the result of unjustifiable killings by the Syrian government, its Hezbollah allies, and the Sunni rebels, many of whom are radical Islamists.
Sending small arms to the Syrian rebels will not reverse the government's regaining the upper hand. Sending small arms to the Syrian rebels, as President Obama has directed, will increase the killing and postpone any eventual progress toward a more stable, less violent Syria. Sending small arms to the Syrian rebels, if intended to keep Israel from taking more aggressive action against Syria, will not win us friends on either side. The rebels know that this aid will not be decisive and see it as a sham. Conversely, Assad and Hezbollah will see the aid as a move against them.
Unfortunately, there is no good option for a third party solution to Syria's problems. If the U.S. (or other nations) side with Syria's government, that strengthens Iran's position in the Middle East. This would further destabilize Iraq and perhaps embolden Hezbollah to reach for more power in Lebanon and to become more aggressive and intransigent in its dealings with Israel. Alternatively, if the U.S. (or other nations) tilts toward the rebels, this probably prolongs the conflict, causing more death and destruction. If, in the unlikely event, the rebels prevail, then Syria will probably become another dysfunctional nation, vulnerable to takeover by Islamists.
Those who would help another – whether an individual caregiver or a nation committed to developing stable democracies (a laudatory goal!) – must learn that help is not always possible. Even Jesus experienced this. When a rich young man desired to learn the path to perfection and Jesus replied that he must sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, the man said nothing, but turned and walked away. The New Testament does not mention what happened to him. Contrary to the romanticism of some interpreters, I suspect that the young man found wealth's grip on his heart, at least for many years, too strong to break.
The other important lesson from what's happening in Syria is that the conflict graphically and tragically illustrates the impotence of a people equipped with small arms against even a third rate military force. Defenders of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution right to bear arms who maintain that Americans owning weapons constitutes a bastion against tyranny would do well to study events in Syria and Egypt. In Syria, rifles have proven no match more tanks, artillery, air power, etc. More importantly, in Egypt, the word has proven mightier than the sword. Networking through social media, protesters overthrew a repressive regime without tens of thousands dying. Government data collection and mining are a greater threat to liberty than are laws that restrict the right to own guns.