Home/Daniel Larison/The Myth of Western ‘Non-Involvement’ in Syria

The Myth of Western ‘Non-Involvement’ in Syria

Bernard-Henri Levy stands by his advocacy for intervention in Libya repeats the tedious claim that the U.S. and its allies were not involved in the war in Syria:

In other words, when you [do the math], the result of noninvolvement and of involvement, the first one is much worse, the balance of noninvolvement is absolutely a thousand per cent more heavy.

I don’t expect Levy to give a fair accounting of the costs of the Libyan war because of his major role in promoting that intervention, but the revisionism on Syria is just insane. The Syrian war has claimed so many lives and has gone on for so long because almost every government in the region and many others from around the world were very much involved in it. Just as one would expect, the more outside interventions by other governments there were the longer and bloodier the war became. The U.S. did not carry out a bombing campaign, but it fueled the conflict with weapons and assistance all the same, and many other governments did likewise. If the U.S. and other governments hostile to the Syrian government weren’t as deeply involved in the conflict as Levy and other interventionists wanted, that doesn’t mean they weren’t involved. It also doesn’t follow that deeper involvement would have shortened the war or lessened the destruction. All the evidence from every armed intervention in the region over the last two decades suggests it would have been just the opposite.

It is a lie to say that the scale and duration of Syria’s war is the result of “non-involvement,” because all of the big powers were involved in Syria from very early on and only became more so as time went by. When interventionists cite Syria as am example of “inaction” or non-intervention, they do so to make it seem as if anything short of an air war or a full-blown invasion counts as doing nothing. If hawks don’t get everything they want in a particular country, they are quick to denounce the policy as “inaction” because the specific form of intervention they want hasn’t happened yet. It is nonsense, but it is rarely called out as such. Both as a matter of understanding what happened in Syria and for the sake of future foreign policy debates, it is important that we put to rest this myth of our “non-involvement” in Syria once and for all.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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