The Real Lesson of Iraq: The US Can’t Shape Post Assad Syria

John Glaser, July 17, 2013


In debating a U.S. intervention in Syria, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not it would be comparable to Iraq. Advocates of intervention say “Syria is not Iraq,” and argue we have “over-learned the lessons of Iraq.” Opponents, like myself, say Syria is like Iraq and a direct military intervention would be a similarly catastrophic experience.

Many, like John McCain, cheerleader of “the surge,” view the overall U.S. war in Iraq as good and effective. To me, the calamitous failure in Iraq is not even debatable. But too much of this has focused on the war itself and whether or not there would be an insurgency long after the U.S. toppled Assad and so forth.

I’m surprised that advocates of U.S. intervention haven’t managed to acknowledge the current posture of Iraq vis-à-vis Syria. After our illegal and murderous war in Iraq, the decade of occupation, and persistent attempts to mold a future government there, the Iraqi regime of Nouri al-Maliki is allied with Syria (not to mention Iran). That, surely, is the real “lesson” to take to Syria: the U.S. cannot craft the outcome it wants.

Boiled down to its fundamentals, any advocate of any kind of U.S. intervention – everything from arming the rebels to a no-fly zone to boots on the ground – is really advocating that America change the regime in Syria. The “Assad must go” idea flows through every argument for direct action. And, like Iraq, the goal of these interventionists is to install a regime more amenable to perceived U.S. interests.

But even with an out-and-out military invasion and occupation that at one point totaled 166,000 troops, the U.S. couldn’t achieve that goal in Iraq. Hawks now view Assad as the new monster of the Middle East. Yet their beloved war in Iraq rendered a government which now supports the Syrian regime and has allowed Iranian overflights through their airspace to deliver supplies to Assad. U.S. officials have repeatedly lambasted the Maliki government for this only to be rebuffed by Baghdad.

Why isn’t this setting off alarm bells in the minds of interventionists? If the U.S. helps topple Assad, Washington will not be able to shape the future government there – and it could arguably be far worse than Assad even by the standards of Washington’s warped preferences.

14 Responses to “The Real Lesson of Iraq: The US Can’t Shape Post Assad Syria”

  1. [...] For more details, visit [...]

  2. Maybe if John McCain wasn't such a senile old fool, he would be able to adequately comprehend what a hell-disaster Iraq has turned out to be for all parties involved. Go to bed, old man.
    But hey, Israel apparently signs his checks, and it worked out swimmingly for them.

  3. [...] The Real Lesson of Iraq: The US Can’t Shape Post Assad Syria [...]

  4. This argument or debate if you like, shouldn't be for before or after or if USA is going to or not going to, the real debate needs to be focused on why USA is eager to topple any regime in this world and for what reasons, if any if these governments posing a threat to USA or they simply are a source of income for USA corporations and therefore needs to be changed, if USA is seriously and heartily after to establish a functioning democratic system for the people of, or USA is helping Israel and Saudis to have more to dictate of their kind if regime to the people of Middle East, is USA after to establish a totalitarian regimes based on Islamic rule of shariah laws and doing so just for changing a regime or USA have a secret agreements with barbarians as well as apartheid regime of Israel? Otherwise we all know who McCain is and what he stands for.

  5. This should give enough reason for the US government to convey their armies to Syria. Will the US government go to Syria? I don't think so since there is no oil there…

  6. Edward Snowden is my hero!

  7. [...] Glaser on yesterday had this to say about the gathering storm around [...]

  8. [...] to assure they do …David Ignatius: Syrian rebels' turn to be jilted by the USU-T San DiegoThe Real Lesson of Iraq: The US Can't Shape Post Assad SyriaAntiwar.comUS lawmakers' doubts ease on arming Syrian rebels: officialReutersall 122 news [...]

  9. Are you sure the U.S. has failed to craft the outcome it wants at Iraq? What if the U. S. wanted to create a weak, failed state? What if the U. S. wanted to demonstrate at Iraq what happens to weak countries who don’t cooperate?

    How can you tell whether McCain is nuts or evil? After all, evil and stupidity are very much alike.

  10. Syria is not Iraq! it's ten times harder to defeat Syria! Let's stay home better!

  11. It's illegal to overthrow other regimes in the first place. it's called aggression, and it's the gravest crime in the world. it should not be debated. France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Rome, USSR, US – they all made the same arguments for aggression. It doesn't make it legal or okay in any way.

    it should be illegal to profit from war. that would shut the war lovers up pretty quick.

  12. it is. Planning and carrying into Effect a War of Aggression.

    A Conspiracy or Common Plan for the Same.

  13. American policymakers, the likes of John McCain, think THEY CAN shape countries to their image after the Destabilisation/War/Invasion, it is a part of the whole theory.

    They are drawing up a new constitution for Syria for their Assets at the moment.

    A lot of this is ECONOMIC – the corporations who contributed to election expenses can take over the victim state's economy and boost their profits – I'm serious.

    Also there is an agreement with Israel and Saudi – the Clean Break plan of 1996.

    Finally US policymakers are convinced as they are "their Jihadists" they can put the Jihadists back in the box and avoid totalitarian regimes and Sharia Law – a policy described as brain dead, an insane policy, and a clinically insane policy.

  14. How ridiculous I cannot even change one thing about my wife.