U.S. cannot afford to intervene in Syria's civil war

America’s debt threatens our economic stability and national security. The United States borrows from China and other foreign nations while mortgaging our children’s future. We blew through the $15 trillion dollar debt mark last November, and we will blow through the $16 trillion dollar debt mark later this year.

Bear in mind that America’s intervention in Libya cost over a billion dollars. An American intervention in Syria would cost much more. America cannot afford to spend money we don’t have, money that, if spent, hastens an American insolvency and in turn undermines our ability to pay for our national defense. A case in point is sequestration and the 700,000 national defense-related lay-offs it triggers starting in January 2013. These cuts reduce America’s defense capabilities by roughly 25 percent.

Basically, the United States is broke. We lack the financial strength to serve as global cops.

In addition to the potentially severe financial burden of American involvement in Syria, history has shown that when the United States picks short-term winners in internal conflicts like Syria, we create enemies and ill will that increase the likelihood of retaliatory attacks on America. From Vietnam to Iraq, triumphant regimes feel little loyalty toward the U.S., while the defeated blame the U.S. for their condition and seek revenge for the loss of their loved ones.

Even if the U.S. were to wage war with money we don’t have, there is a real risk we would make matters worse, not better. Revolution in Egypt specifically, and the Arab Spring generally, have shown great promise, then were followed by political gains for Muslim extremists who threaten war with Israel and share views with those who masterminded 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Syrian rebels’ ties with extreme Islamists raise the very real possibility that America’s intervention will empower the very terrorists who seek to attack us on our own soil.

All of these considerations do not mean President Bashar al-Assad’s resolve to cruelly hunt his own countrymen and lay waste to his own lands must go unchallenged. Syria is in the backyard of Middle Eastern nations and a close neighbor of Europe. If military intervention in Syria is appropriate, then Syria’s regional neighbors should shoulder that burden. The Arab League, European Union, and other Syrian neighbors should not expect the United States to act from half a world away while they twiddle their trigger fingers.

Finally, any U.S. involvement in Syria must not be considered without the full participation of the U.S. House, Senate, and citizens. President Obama involved America in Libya without consulting Congress or the American people, and he must not do so a second time. There should be no expenditure of American treasure or risk of American lives in Syria without a public debate that weighs all pros and cons. 

America should not intervene in Syria. We must not spend money we don’t have on causes that don’t involve substantial American interests. America simply does not have the resources to enforce peace in every conflict in the world, particularly in a part of the world where people do not fully appreciate our sacrifice of blood. To the contrary, it will create lasting ill will toward us. 

The United States has always been, and will always be, an ally of freedom. But we must put America’s future and the future of our children and grandchildren first. Generations to come deserve a better future than unrestrained American military adventurism gives them. They deserve policies that preserve America’s solvency, minimize international ill will toward us, and promote peace. Intervention in Syria supports none of these things.

Brooks serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

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