We’ve published three books that work as a surreal trilogy about the current events in the Middle East. In Benghazi: The Definitive Report, Brandon and I wrote about how the Arab Spring migrated across the Middle East, eventually blowing up into the Libyan Civil War. While the Arab Spring had been a series of protest movements and scattered civil unrest, it turned into a pitched war in Libya as the rebel forces beat back Gaddafi’s Army. The ebook we wrote looks at how the civil war unfolded and the second- and third-order effects of that war, including American counter-terrorism operations in Libya and how it led to the Benghazi attack.
The day after Gaddafi fell, the next domino to fall in the Arab Spring was on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Syria. Kerry Patton wrote a great ebook called The Syria Report, in which he correctly points out that the West was using Syria as a stratagem in a much larger game—a global chess match against Iran. With Syria out of the way, it would open up new fronts to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. With that completed, the path would be clear for our real target—Iran.
At the time, I supported Kerry in calling for the United States to stay out of Syria. There were various reasons why I felt this way, and we even debated it openly on the Andrew Wilkow show. First, I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I saw firsthand the mess we created in Iraq, and I am acutely aware of America’s limitations when it comes to counter-insurgency and unconventional warfare. For all the horn tooting that we do about how great Special Forces is at both COIN and UW, the reality is that America has been failing it for a long time, minus a few outliers in Central America. The last thing I wanted to see was our troops committed to a war that bureaucrats would not allow them to win.
Second, I could not identify an actor in Syria I felt we could partner with in any meaningful and productive way. Around 2011, the three major belligerents were Assad’s forces, the Free Syrian Army, and Al-Nusra. Assad was a dictator, but still a voice of moderation in the region up until the war kicked off. Afterwards, he started drinking his own Kool-Aid and thought that the unrest in his country was simply from foreign mercenaries, not from legitimates grievances from the people of his country. At any rate, American foreign policy eventually came to support the removal of Assad. Meanwhile, Nusra were a bunch of Islamist whack jobs cutting out people’s hearts and eating them—literally.