Syria may be “somebody else’s civil war,” as President Obama has noted, but what happens directly implicates American security interests. Because on the current trajectory large tracts of Syria are turning into an ungoverned zone where jihadists can roam freely. Syria is well on its way to becoming what Afghanistan was prior to 9/11: a haven and training ground for foreign jihadists, some of whom undoubtedly will wind up staging attacks in Europe or the United States.
Indeed the process has already started. As the New York Times notes today: “Islamic extremist groups in Syria with ties to al-Qaeda are trying to identify, recruit and train Americans and other Westerners who have traveled there to get them to carry out attacks when they return home, according to senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.”
Of particular concern are the 70 or so Americans and more than 1,200 Europeans who have traveled to Syria to fight since the civil war began: They all possess passports and language skills that would allow them to blend in easily in the West.
The fact that this is going on is hard to explain in the increasingly popular isolationist (excuse me, non-interventionist) paradigm which holds that the U.S. reaps what it sows–that the more we get involved in foreign lands, the more resentment we engender and hence the more attacks we invite. The U.S. has been almost entirely uninvolved in Syria yet it threatens to become another center of anti-American terrorism. I wonder how Rand Paul would explain this?
Perhaps he thinks we should simply exit the entire region, not just Syria. Well, President Obama appears to be trying to do just that and the result is not peace and stability breaking out–it is more violence which already threatens American interests in the region and which could easily someday threaten America’s physical security.
We shouldn’t wait until the first Syrian-trained suicide bombers show up in London or New York; we should act now (indeed, we should have been acting for the past two years) to bolster the more moderate opposition elements who are even now battling al-Qaeda militants for control of the parts of Syria that are outside the government’s grasp.