The Washington Post reports today that the Obama administration is moving to equip rebel factions inside Syria with body armor, armored vehicles, military training and medical aid. While Obama has not moved as swiftly as many would like, his administration is moving America deeper and deeper into Syria's civil war. The next, logical step in the administration's incremental intervention is passing arms to the rebels. Here are three reasons why it's a mistake:
1. The U.S. cannot contain the aftermath. The struggle for a post-Assad Syria does not end with the dictator's downfall -- it begins. Simply arming various rebel factions does nothing to stabilize or secure a post-war Syria, nor ensure that any of the governing institutions these factions would control are up to the task of bringing order to the entire country. The U.S. struggled with over 100,000 troops in Iraq to restore order and bring some semblance of governance to the country. It would likely fare no better in Syria.
2. Weapons are fungible. The notion that the U.S. can simply provide weapons only to the 'good guys' in the Syrian war is a fantasy. Weapons, like cash, are a fungible commodity. There is nothing to stop those weapons from moving between groups once they are inside the country. The upshot is that any weapons the U.S. provides could end up in the hands of jihadists bent on future attacks against U.S. and Western interests.
3. It opens the door to deeper involvement. Even though President Obama has been reluctant to throw the full weight of the U.S. behind the effort to unseat the Assad regime, Washington's involvement in the civil war has crept steadily forward -- egged on by a cohort of analysts and politicians whose advice on the Iraq war proved disastrous for the United States. As the U.S. takes additional steps to involve itself in Syria's civil war, the logic and momentum of even deeper intervention will take hold.