Twelve years ago, we were suddenly and stunningly jolted from our naive notion that the world was a much safer place than we had led ourselves to believe.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, took 3,000 lives and impacted millions more by jerking the blinders off our heads. So America saddled up, went to war in the Middle East, and eventually earned some measure of justice by taking down many al-Qaida leaders and sending the Taliban running into the hills.
Yet a dozen years later, the Middle East looks no more stable nor peaceful than it was in 2001. That leads many to wonder what U.S. policy should be in the region. It’s a debate without a clear right or a left, nor easy answers, as the nation considers taking action in yet another turbulent locale, Syria.
The 9/11 attacks directly led to the U.S. military action in Afghanistan. That war has cost 2,200 American lives with success hard to measure, though the No. 2 U.S. commander there, Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said last week he believes victory still can be won before forces withdraw at the end of 2014.
The terror attacks also indirectly led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq a year later, based on the belief Saddam Hussein’s regime had supported the terrorists and amassed destructive weapons. Our nation committed more than 4,400 lives and billions of dollars in a divisive engagement that many still believe was a mistake
Now civil war in Syria pits Bashar Assad’s government against revolutionaries seeking to add that country to the Arab Spring list of toppled dictators that included Libya’s Gadhafi and Egypt’s Mubarak. His armed forces’ apparent use of chemical weapons in a recent battle has the Obama administration seeking “targeted, limited” airstrikes against some of his military sites.
If we learned anything from these messy Mideast uprisings it’s that removing one group of bad actors doesn’t lead to peace, stability and democracy — usually just to a different group of equally bad actors who impose their own brand of oppressive rule and political retribution.
-The Times, Gainesville, Ga.