Someone attacked a suburb of Damascus, Syria this week with all the quiet fury of a Biblical plague. No marks of sacrificial blood could save the innocent or chosen. This work of man killed all indiscriminately.
Nerve gas wafted through the streets and homes. By the time it dissipated, it killed 1,300 just as effectively as the Japanese at Nanking or the Romans at Carthage in the Third Punic War.
The Daily Mail referred to the incident as "the town that never woke up."
The Syrian belligerents can be divided into three categories. First is the Syrian government itself, no stranger to atrocities. Rebelling against it is one group with an equal potential for evil, the Islamicists. Kurdish forces in the northeast have seized important points. Kurds have a quasi-sovereign state in northern Iraq, but also live in Syria, Turkey, and Iran. Possibly the weakest faction is the Syrian nationalist rebels, tied by outrageous fortune to the Islamicists.
Government forces showed signs of desperation earlier this week when they attacked the Israeli held Golan Heights. Provoking a war with Israel would throw the region into chaos. Israel, so far, has remained somewhat restrained.
A group allied with the Syrian government took down the Washington Post's website last week.
The Washington Free Beacon reported a day before the attack that a joint Russian-American plan to create a transitional government has not taken the first necessary steps.
Meanwhile in Egypt, as was reported yesterday by Kirby Wilbur on the Sean Hannity Show, Muslim Brotherhood thugs, ousted by the military, have taken their rage out on the Coptic Christian community.
American influence since World War II has not brought complete peace, but has kept the lid on conflicts that could have erupted without its presence. US troops have occasionally played a role, as in Lebanon under Eisenhower and Reagan. This also, of course, includes the Iraq wars. But usually US aims are realized through the dispensation of aid and realpolitik style maneuvering.
Some of these conflicts, such as the rise of the Islamofascist thug group, Muslim Brotherhood, have steadily percolated for years. The Brotherhood aligned with the Nazis before and during World War II to try and destabilize British authority in the Middle East. Ever since, they have worked to undermine secular rule in Egypt to establish an Iran or Taliban style state there.
The full realization of their plans would put a hostile power in control of the vital Suez Canal who also would attack Israel.
Part of the problem lies at the feet of Barack Obama. Nearly every president since Harry Truman has based American Middle East policy on certain foundations. First was support of Israel. Second, America must protect, or support the protection of, strategic interests. These include safe ocean passage through the Suez, Straits of Hormuz, etc., oil reserves, and important points.
The United States also worked to prevent the rise of malefactors in the Middle East, but also lived with anti-democratic forces willing to go along with the game plan. For example, Qaddafi was an enemy when he sponsored terrorism. When he renounced weapons of mass destruction, he became at least tolerable and a possible example of a "reformed" dictator. Not the best case scenario, but an improvement.
Supporting "democracy" in the Middle East is problematic. Islamofascists, like the German Nazis and Communists before, advocate "democracy" so that they can come to power and annihilate it. The best case scenario for Germany in the mid 1930s would have been a military coup and purge of Hitler's followers and Communists, followed by a restoration of the Kaiser. Those rebelling against authoritarianism today often only plan to establish bloody totalitarianism tomorrow.
Previous presidents understood this. Obama does not.
American policy in the region has no chance of restoration under Obama. His aimless diplomacy, coupled with two poorly performing secretaries of state, inspire no respect. Middle Easterners did not always like Obama's predecessor, but they respected his strength and ability to act. Obama has effectively destroyed that perception and replaced it with weakness.
Drifting away from Israel has also made war more likely, not less.
Even though energy self-sufficiency will de-emphasize the Middle East's importance somewhat, it still breeds hate and terror. America must have a policy that starts with a perception of strength based on the reality of action. Doing anything else increases the chance of war and/or terror attacks.