I’ve mentioned how the internal conflict in Syria in some ways is similar to that of the Thirty Years War. Well, in those very same “some ways” we’re witnessing history try to repeat itself with the announcement the U.S. will begin to directly arm the insurrectionists in Syria against Assad government for its reported use of chemical weapons in the conflict, even if such claims are once again regarded as dubious and unfounded (you see, history repeating itself.)
The Thirty Years War was on the surface a sectarian conflict between Catholic and Protestant in central Europe but very powerful political, financial and imperial reasons influenced the fighting as well, at least for those major powers who were either directly involved in the fighting or working their influence behind the scenes. The U. S. announcement of intervention is reminiscent of the Swedish intervention into the conflict, led the warrior king Gustavus Adolphus.
While the Swedes intervened in the conflict with every intention of saving the Protestant side from defeat, its larger aims basically transcended this religious conflict. Sweden wanted to be the dominant power in the Baltic by securing control of both Pomerania and Courland directly and secure the means of making itself a power through economically controlling the resources of the Baltic area, both natural and through trade routes. Likewise, Gustavus Obamus, may want a democratic Syria but has much larger goals than just setting up ballot boxes. He wishes for the U.S. to to have a role in Syria’s political future (which depends upon military intervention) and economic future (which depends upon the political intervention). U.S. intervention cannot make the Syrian rebels “win” but it can keep them at least going for the foreseeable future so that conflict drags out and some settlement is reached (which would likely mean a partition of some sort). The U.S is also intervening because Iran and its Lebanese Shiite allies in Hezbollah are intervening in the conflict (the real “red line” which has been crossed) and Gustavus Obamus wants to make sure they gain no advantage for themselves if the Assad regime survives.
Swedish intervention was crucial in preventing the defeat of the Protestant armies and blocking the continental ambitions of Hapsburg family. Gustavus Obamus hopes U.S. intervention has the same kind of decisive impact. But sending small arms to a bunch of doctors, lawyers and merchants turned soldiers and training them doesn’t sound too decisive to me. Right now it’s the only kind of intervention Gustavus Obamus can get away with politically. Pretty soon however, if nothing changes, the calls for intervention on a greater scale (like no-fly zones, special forces incursions, and the ultimate move, boots on the ground) will grow now that the U.S. is committed itself to both supporting the rebel side but seeing to it Bashar al-Assad falls in the process. At least Gustavus Adolphus, an acknowledged military genius, went into the Thirty Years War fully committed with his forces and his nation’s prestige. Gustavus Obamus, on the other hand, has just entered the Syrian war with the U.S. prestige but not much else to back it up. And as repeats itself once again, steady but inevitable escalation (unless you wish to cut and run and leave the insurrectionists to their fate) will be the only U.S. option as well.
It seems that the year 2014 could well be out of Afghanistan and into Syria.