The United States has been sticking its nose into civil wars around the globe — investing American blood and treasure to influence other countries' sectarian or political conflicts — since just after the birth of the republic. We never learn.
If you want to get really depressed, google "countries America has invaded since 1960." Here's a partial list of our international military actions, including invasions, bombings, raids, missile strikes, drone strikes, etc.: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Congo, Iran, Iraq, El Salvador, Libya, Lebanon, Panama, the Philippines, Kuwait, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
For more fun, read the noble and hopeful names of some of these "operations": Urgent Fury, New Dawn, Frequent Wind, Nimble Archer, Eagle Claw, Preying Mantis, Golden Chance, Desert Shield, Provide Promise, Infinite Reach, New Dawn, Odyssey Dawn.
Now, President Obama would like permission from Congress to lob a few missiles into Syria to punish President Assad for allegedly tear-gassing civilians. Because that will fix the problem, right? May I suggest we call this one Operation Really? This Again?
Why don't we ever figure this stuff out? This is yet another attempt to do brain surgery with a ball-peen hammer. The Middle East is a complex, interconnected time bomb, but Americans always want to declare one side or the other the "good guys." It's impossible: Assad's regime is heinous, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and he has ties to the murderous Hezbollah. On the other hand, the opposing rebel forces are linked to al-Qaeda and have made films of themselves beheading captured enemy soldiers and performing other bloody atrocities. These are the good guys? The people we want to help take over Syria? I don't think so.
The civilians of Syria — the ones who haven't already fled the country — are the ones who are paying the price. And, whether it's from nerve gas, rockets, bombs, or bullets, dead is dead. Is it possible to stop the killing without aiding either side? Doubtful. Could a United Nations coalition step in and slow the bloodshed? Possibly, but it seems unlikely, given Russian and Chinese opposition.
Countries and religious factions in the Middle East have been fighting each other for centuries. Lebanon's most recent civil war lasted 15 years. These kinds of conflicts can't be dealt with using anything less than the full weight and force of the international community. So how will launching a few U.S. missiles into this morass help resolve the conflict? It won't.
We've seen this seductive slow dance to Hades before. First, we make "demands," then we draw a "red line in the sand"; we promise we won't put "boots on the ground."
Just the tip?
I have a simple analytic device to help me decide whether U.S. military action is justified: If John McCain and Lindsey Graham are for it, I'm against it.