The sounds stick with me the most. The throaty, crackling roar of F-15E Strike Eagles speeding off post-delivery. The sound of an A-10's 30mm rounds slapping the earth. The quiet background hum of an AC-130 high over the battlefield, almost forgotten until rounds start to fly in; when you are close enough to the enemy, you hear and see the ordinance hit its target, and then a few seconds later you hear the aircraft firing. The sounds were awe-inspiring. They electrified me; I knew that the most powerful air force the planet had ever seen was attacking on my behalf.
Who could know that just two years later that same air force would be clearing a path for Al Qaeda to acquire enormous influence in a war in Libya? Imagine for one moment the reaction had someone predicted in October of 2008 that should Obama be elected president, he'd use our military on behalf of Islamists. They would have been ridiculed without quarter. Conservatives would have cringed; they last thing they needed was for their own to gift the media yet another way to paint opponents to the First Black President as unsophisticated nuts, and likely racists. Despite how unhinged such a notion would have seemed just a few years ago, we saw in Spring 2011 our air force dropping bombs on Libya's regime forces, no saints to be sure, but preferable to their Islamist opposition. Weeks later, the black flag of Al Qaeda flew high in Libya, as the former regime's weapons melted into the desert.
A repeat of America's bizarre Libyan incursion seems likely, this time in Syria. As was the case in Libya, the Syrian regime is awful, corrupt, and autocratic to the core. It speaks ill of the Syrian opposition that Bashir Assad's regime is preferable to the rebels he may or may not be attacking with chemical weapons. That there is a considerable Al Qaeda presence amongst the Syrian rebels is not in doubt.
Peter Bergen discusses al-Nusra at CNN:
Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is generally acknowledged to be the most effective force fighting al-Assad.
Its fighters are willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause, are widely viewed as uncorrupt and are not involved in looting as other opposition forces are. A number of them are battle-hardened from other conflicts such as the Iraq War.
Al Qaeda, the organization that demolished the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, is one of the primary combatants in the Syrian civil war. That inconvenient truth alone should preclude our involvement on behalf of the rebels. If that is not enough, perhaps their actual conduct on the ground suggests that they are reproachable and should not be supported by our military. As The Nation (Pakistan) reports:
There have been several reports that point to the atrocities committed by the FSA against minorities, especially the Christian community in Aleppo, which has been forced to pick up arms to defend itself against the attacks from the rebels. The ultra-conservative mindset of the rebel fighters is put on show by the chants of "Alawites to the graves, Christians to Beirut" as they attack churches and kill with impunity.
While no liberty-minded American can offer a defense of the Assad regime, no American should want to see the nation's air force once again used to tip the battlefield balance in favor of Al Qaeda. We were repaid by our Islamist partners in Libya with a burnt out consulate and a dead ambassador (along with three other Americans). It seems unlikely that Al Qaeda in Syria, an ally of Al Qaeda Iraq, will repay our help in a more amicable manner. Our national leadership would have to be insane to use the USAF as Al Qaeda's close air support.
Brae Jager is a kulak, and blogs at braejager.blogspot.com