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Syria: Change the Dissent Channel

The US State Department’s “Dissent Channel” is a mechanism through which department personnel may disagree with administration policy without fear of job retribution. On June 17, Mark Landler of the New York Times revealed the existence of a recent  “Dissent Channel”  memo bearing the signatures of 51 diplomats and other department officials and calling for “a more militarily assertive US role in Syria [versus the Assad regime], based on the judicious use of stand-off and air weapons.”

Let me open my dissent to the dissent by invoking the late Pete Seeger: “Oh when will they ever learn?”

The “judicious use” of US military force in the Middle East and Central Asia  has made things worse, not better, for 25 years now.

The first Gulf War weakened admittedly draconian, but at least secular, rule in the region, unleashing al Qaeda on the world.

The US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq turned those countries into festering wounds, breeding grounds for raging infections of militant Islamism. US interventions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere have accelerated, not suppressed, the growth and virulence of those infections.

How many civilians have died in the Middle East and Central Asia due to these “judicious uses” of US military force over the last quarter century? There’s no way to know. Estimates of the death toll in Syria so far range from about 150,000 to nearly half a million. Thousands in Libya. Tens of thousands in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands, possibly more than a million, in Iraq.

That’s not counting thousands of American deaths — more than 6,000 US troops, more than 3,000 American civilians — directly related to successive administrations’ hubristic ambition to run the lives of people, and dictate the policies of governments, in these countries.

US military force, “judicious” or otherwise, has failed to produce peace, democracy or stability in the region. In fact, it has had precisely the opposite effect. It hasn’t worked. It isn’t going to start working now.

The proper course is neither continuing the administration’s half-hearted policy of funding and supporting “good” Islamists versus “bad” Islamists in Syria, nor the aggressive military policy advocated for by these State Department dissenters. The proper course is complete US military withdrawal from the region.

Their problems are theirs, not America’s, to solve. The quicker we learn that, the better their lives, and ours, will become. The US is in a deep foreign policy hole of its own creation. Time to stop digging.

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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