Home/Daniel Larison/When All Else Fails, Use a Horribly Flawed WWII Analogy

When All Else Fails, Use a Horribly Flawed WWII Analogy

Max Boot must be running out of ways to agitate for intervention in Syria, because this is remarkably weak even for him:

The administration’s stance would be akin to the Roosevelt administration in 1942 designating the NKVD as a terrorist organization and refusing to cooperate with Stalin. FDR was shrewder than that–he realized that, for all his dislike of Communism, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend, at least temporarily. That is something that the current Democratic president does not seem to grasp.

The obvious differences between U.S.-Soviet cooperation in WWII after Pearl Harbor and the U.S. relationship with the Syrian opposition today are that America isn’t at war with the Syrian government, and Syria hasn’t declared war on the U.S. Once the U.S. was at war with Germany, it was unavoidable that our government would cooperate with and lend support to the Soviet Union. No such necessity compels the U.S. to ignore the terrorist tactics of a group fighting against the Syrian government. It doesn’t matter that Jabhat al-Nusra is fighting against Assad. A group connected to jihadists in Iraq is not America’s “friend” in any sense.

It might be one thing to overlook the crimes and abuses of an ally in a major war, but it’s something else to go out of one’s way to ignore the crimes of a group in order to become involved in another country’s civil war in which the U.S. has nothing at stake. The latter would be a lot like pretending that the KLA weren’t thugs and criminals in order to justify supporting their goal of separating Kosovo from Serbia. It’s worth noting here that one year before the NATO war against Yugoslavia, the KLA was listed as a terrorist organization, so theoretically there’s nothing to stop the U.S. in the future from coming in on the side of a group that it considers to be terrorists.

While intervention in 1999 may have won the U.S. the gratitude of Albanians in Kosovo, it also subjected the people in Kosovo to the rule of an abusive criminal leadership. The fate of people in Syria, especially those belonging to minority communities, would likely be even worse than that if these sorts of groups rose to power. Kosovo isn’t a perfect comparison with Syria, since the goal of anti-Assad forces is not just to separate from the rest of the country and establish an independent state of their own. Their goal is to overthrow the existing regime and presumably to seize control of the entire country. Had the KLA had such ambitious goals in Serbia, the U.S. would have been even more foolish to oblige them.

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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